This section contains brief information on some of the most famous hackers, both black and white hats. The individuals below are well known for a variety of reasons: their actions, whether good or bad, their contributions to software and technology development, or their innovative approach, skills and ability to think out of the box.

Richard Stallman is known as the father of free software. When Stallman started working at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1971 he was confronted with ‘non disclosure agreements’ and closed program sources while he was hacking and improving system drivers the ‘traditional way’. After an interesting battle to obtain the source code of a faulty printer utility, Stallman gave up his job and became the loudest advocate for free computer software, creating GNU and the Free Software Foundation in the process.

Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson are famous for two major software developments of the 20th century: the UNIX operating system and the C programming language. These two began their carriers at Bell Labs in 1960’s, revolutionising the computer world forever with their ideas. While Ken Thompson has retired from the computer world, Dennis Ritchie is still employed at Lucent Technology, working on a new operating system derived from Unix, called ‘Plan9’.

John Draper, aka ‘Cap’n Crunch’ is famous for his ability to hack phone systems using nothing but a whistle from the ‘Cap’n Crunch’ cereal boxes (hence the nickname). Besides being the father of ‘phone phreaking’, John Draper is also famous for writing what was perhaps the first IBM PC word processor. He now heads his own security venture, developing antispam solutions, thwarting hacker attacks and securing PCs.

Robert Morris is famous for creating the first Internet worm in 1988. It infected thousand of systems, and practically brought the Internet to a halt for nearly a day. The ‘Morris Worm’ was perhaps the first fully automated hacking tool, exploiting a couple of unpatched vulnerabilities on Vax and Sun computers.

Kevin Mitnick, possibly the best known case of a ‘black hat’, was caught by the computer expert Tsutomu Shimomura back in 1995.

Kevin Poulsen remains famous for his 1990 hack of the phone system in Los Angeles. This enabled him to become the 102nd caller in a radio-phone and win a Porsche 944. Kevin Poulsen was eventually caught and imprisoned for three years. He now works as a columnist for the online security magazine ‘SecurityFocus’.

Vladimir Levin, a Russian computer expert, hacked into Citibank and extracted USD $10 million. He was arrested by Interpol in UK, back in 1995 and sentenced to three years in prison, as well as being required to pay USD $240,015 in restitution.

Tsutomu Shimomura is a good example of a ‘white hat’. He was working for the San Diego Supercomputing Center when Kevin Mitnick broke into his network and stole information on cellular technology and other classified data. Tsutomu started the pursuit for Mitnick which eventually led to his arrest.

Linus Torvalds is known as the father of Linux, the most popular Unix-based operating system in use nowadays. Linus started his work on a new operating system in 1991, adopting several controversial technologies for his project, namely the concept of Free Software and GNU’s Public License system. He is also known for his early disputes with Andrew Tannenbaum, the author of Minix, which was the inspirational source for Linus’ OS project.