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Hackers in History: 3 Famous Digital Security Breaches

People are free to hack all they want to—that is until the FBI gets involved. Here are just 3 famous hackers who paid for their punishments after committing cyber-related crimes:

Adrian Lamo

Also known as “the homeless hacker,” Lamo broke into the New York Times, Yahoo!, and Microsoft from internet and coffee cafes on the west coast. First, he was known for his AOL watchdog website called Then, in 2002, he hacked into New York Times’ network, used their databases like LexisNexus, and changed lists of expert sources used for articles. Finally, in 2003, he was arrested after the New York Times brought a complaint to the FBI about him.

Lamo was sentenced to 6 months home confinement at his parents’ house, plus he was required to pay $65,000 in restitution. By the time Lamo finished paying for his crimes, he was remorseful, saying, “We all own our actions in fullness, not just the pleasant aspects of them.” Lamo also helped bring about the arrest of another famous hacker, Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning.

Kevin Poulsen

Poulsen was notorious for hacking into all the phone lines in Los Angeles during a radio show and predicting he would be the 102nd caller. He did and won a Porsche 944 S2. The FBI finally caught on to him, and he became a fugitive. Also, when he was a fugitive, he made the phone lines go down on a tip line on Unsolved Mysteries. After serving his prison sentence, he was the first person banned from using the internet and computers after prison.

He has since distanced himself from his criminal past by launching a successful career in journalism. He also, along with Aaron Swartz, designed and founded SecureDrop, an open-source software platform for secure communication between journalists and sources. He eventually gave the software to Freedom of the Press Foundation, where he now works.

Kevin Mitnick

At the young age of 16, Mitnick broke into Digital Equipment Corporation’s (DEC) computer network and copied all of their software. In 1988, he was convicted of the DEC theft and sentenced to one year in prison, followed by 3 years of supervision. A few years later, while still under government supervision, he copied important software from some of the largest cell phone and computer companies in the United States.

Along with the software theft, he broke into private email accounts, altered computer networks, and changed private passwords. He was rearrested in 1995, serving 5 years in prison. Since then, he’s supposedly gone straight by becoming a consultant for Mitnick Security Consulting, LLC, a group that helps test a company’s security strengths, weaknesses, and potential loopholes.

There are people out there who haven’t gotten caught yet but are performing the same computer and cybercrimes as these criminals mentioned above. It’s always best to protect yourself and your business as much as you can using data security services and smart online security practices.