The concept of computer hacking is often viewed as scary or seemingly impossible to most people. It’s also generally considered annoying to anyone who remembers the obnoxious girl in Jurassic Park who claimed to be a hacker despite having no idea in generally every aspect.
Anyway, there are some people to whom hacking comes with astonishing ease, and over the years they have compiled a long list of extremely impressive hacks. Here are 10 of the best hacks and hackers in history. When you think of awesome computer hacks, chances are you assume it is something that took place in the recent past.
Well, what if we told you that one of our favorite hacks actually took place way back in 1981, which we’re guessing is before a lot of our readers were even born? That’s when a guy nicknamed Captain Zap decided to have a little fun at the expense of AT&T. Captain Zap, whose real name is Ian Murphy, was apparently fed up with his phone bill, so he and some buddies decided that the only logical recourse was to hack into AT&T and change the internal clocks. Why would this matter? Well, for those too young to remember, back in the day when people still used landlines, phone companies offered discounts for calls late at night. By changing the internal clock, Zap was able to rig the entire AT&T system so that everyone got those same late night discounts during the daylight hours. Also impressive? He’s the only guy on this list who inspired a Robert Redford movie (Sneakers.)
Kevin Poulsen is a smart guy. Over the years, he has become somewhat notorious for his computer hacking antics, but in 1991 he pulled off what has to be his most entertaining hack by far. Of course while we consider it hilarious, Poulsen might not, considering he got 51 months in prison because the judge didn’t share our sense of humor.
So what did he do to earn all that jail time? An LA radio station was holding a contest in which a certain number caller would win a brand new Porsche. Naturally, because everyone wants a Porsche, Poulsen did the only logical thing: he hacked the Los Angeles phone system to make it possible for only him and his friends to call in to the station, guaranteeing that they would be the ones who won the car. That was enough to get him over four years in the pokey.
Don’t feel too badly for Poulsen receiving those 51 months, though. He’s now an editor at Wired. Unless you hate Wired. Then you can feel bad for him.
To most people, hacking a website seems like it would be a very difficult endeavor. Hacking two websites? That seems near impossible to novices like us.
Now imagine hacking a dozen sites. Maybe a hundred.Or, in the case of TiGER-M@TE, how about 700,000? Yes, you read that number correctly. One hacker took down 700,000 sites, and he did it all in one shot.
In 2011, TiGER-M@TE decided to have a little fun by hacking an entire data center, taking down hundreds of thousands of domains hosted by “Inmotion”, including the Bangladesh Google site. Also included in this mega-hack were the local domains of Yahoo and Bing, but nobody noticed, because nobody uses those anyway.
Well, we’ve already established that the ability to hack multiple sites is pretty freaking impressive. Now imagine attempting to take down massive sites like CNN, eBay, and E*TRADE. And now imagine doing so when you’re 15, and pulling it off with tremendous ease. That’s exactly what Canadian Michael Calce did, crippling some of the biggest websites in the world for a week.
Calce, also known as MafiaBoy, racked up 56 counts of illegal hacking and ended up serving time in a juvenile detention center for his actions. Of course, these days someone was smart enough to realize that it would be much better to have him use his powers for good, so he has become an Internet security consultant.
By the way, were you wondering what exactly possessed him to perform those hacks? For starters, curiosity. That, and the fact that his friends basically triple-dog dared him to do it, saying they didn’t think he could take down CNN. Not only were they wrong, it only took him about the span of a commercial break to pull it off.
Chances are if you’ve ever been around a computer and the Internet, and are even vaguely aware of hackers, you’ve heard of Anonymous. Anonymous is a group of hackers who originated on 4chan, and over the years they have been at the heart of numerous high level hacks around the world. Basically, if you have your own website you should be terrified of them and pray they never get offended at something you say.
Anyway, while they often engage in anarchic hacks, they also use their powers for good. Our favorite example of this is when they decided to make it their mission to take down the Westboro Baptist Church. You know those jokers, right? Those are the tools who show up to protest the funeral of any person they can even loosely connect to gay rights or other issues they hate, mainly because they are huge tools and other, stronger words that we can’t use here.
Back in 2012, Anonymous took over the WBC website, hacked WBC’s information, and released things such as its members’ names and social security numbers. Oh yeah, they also filed a death certificate in the name of WBC spokesperson Shirley Phelps-Rogers, which would prohibit her from using her social security number. Oh, and they also changed her desktop wallpaper to shameless picture.
Okay, so far we’ve been talking mainly about funny or just flat-out awesome hacks that have occurred over the years. Now it’s time to get into the really scary stuff. You know, like the national security, almost starting wars type of stuff.
For instance, let’s talk about Gary McKinnon, who somehow managed to get inside the Pentagon’s computer system and steal 24,000 classified files. Yes, you read that right. He hacked into the Pentagon and stole secret files. Thousands upon thousands of secret American military files. At one point, before McKinnon was outed as the culprit, it was believed that a foreign government or maybe even a terrorist group stole the files, which definitely helped Americans sleep at night.
You always hear about someone’s Twitter account being hacked, mainly after a celebrity “accidentally” fires off a nude photo or a horribly racist tweet, or something along those lines. But just in case you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, it’s not just a place for celebrities and wannabe comedians and writers. Governments around the world use Twitter as a resource, including North Korea. And, just like the celebrities that Kim Jong Un and his late father seemed to enjoy so much, their official Twitter account was hacked, along with their Flickr account.
Unfortunately for Kim Jong II, this wasn’t just a hack lightly mocking the diminutive dictator for his crazy hair or love of basketball. No, whoever hacked into the Twitter feed called for a full-on uprising against the government. To make things even better, it was right around this time that the nation’s YouTube channel was hacked with a cartoon of Kim Jong Un running people over in a sports car...
Mathew Bevan and Richard Pryce were two young Welshmen who, in 1996, were doing what a lot of guys their age were doing, like nearly starting World War III. Wait, you mean no one does that for kicks? Well, how about if they do it because they are trying to prove a UFO conspiracy theory?
As it turns out, that’s apparently what happened here in the mid-1990’s, when Bevan hacked Griffiss Air Force Base in New York, in order to find evidence that there are aliens and the government is hiding them from us. The hack was detected, but no one knew who was doing it or what the purpose actually was, so naturally there was panic. After all, some foreign entity was discovered sniffing around inside an official US military computer network. That’s going to raise some eyebrows, like those of Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent Jim Christy, who made that famous claim that these two Brits nearly started a new World War.
Okay, so even if it has been shown that places like the Pentagon and assorted military bases can be hacked, certainly no one would be able to hack into the Central Intelligence Agency, right? Seriously, if there is any organization that should be able to avoid such a thing, it has to be the CIA. Right? Okay, so maybe not. In 2011, the website of the CIA was hacked and brought down by a group called Lulz Security. We can only hope they were looking for any secret files about whether or not their cats could hazcheezburger.
Fortunately for the sake of, you know, national security, the hackers were unable to actually collect any data and were basically just showing off and saying yes, even the mighty CIA can be hacked. Lulz Security has not limited its hacking to just the CIA, though. They have also apparently been linked to attacks on the Senate, News Corp, and PBS, because we guess they decided Big Bird* needed to be taken down a peg or two.
And finally we come to the most well-known and infamous hacker of all: Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks. While WikiLeaks claims to release information simply from inside, anonymous sources, Assange has a long history as a hacker from his days as a teenager, and he’s been a headache for governments around the world due to his releasing of classified information into the public domain.
Assange is considered such a danger to the United States in particular, that any military personnel who make contact with him will be considered friends with “the enemy.” You know you’ve really made it as an international hacker and all-around troublemaker when the United States has officially dubbed you an enemy. Of course, he’s also set to be played by Benedict Cumberbatch in an upcoming movie, so overall we have to consider his efforts with WikiLeaks a pretty massive win for the dude.
*Big bird is 8 feet 2 inch yellow bird that lives on Sesame street (American series for children).
10 Computer Hacks & Tricks
1. Learn How to Use the Command Line
The truth is that using the command line is not as exciting or easy as it seems like in Hollywood movies. However, learning how to use the command line might prove to be extremely helpful. Power users adore using the command line, because they can perform complicated tasks by simply pressing a few keystrokes.
There are a wide variety of shortcuts, but it takes too much time to present them all here. However, if you want to learn more about using the command line like a pro, check the following link: Become a Command Line Ninja With These Time Saving Shortcuts
2. Find Additional Uses for Programs you Already Have
Computer nerds will always think out of the box, especially when it comes to finding new uses for the tools and programs they already use. Most programs can be used for more purposes, in addition to their original one. For instance, the file-syncing program, Dropbox, can be used to monitor your home computer, download torrents or even print files from afar. You can also use Gmail to find out if someone has stolen your phone.
3. Understand When Too Much is Too Much
When your computer starts to work a little too slow, you need to find out the real cause behind this problem. Usually, one app will slow your system down, so you need to find it and close it as fast as possible.
The following tools should help you find the real cause and terminate it: Rainmeter (for Windows) and MenuMeter (for Mac).
4. Know the OS’s Hidden Features
Every operating system (OS) has its own tricks and features hidden under the hood. System tweakers such as OnyX for Mac and Ultimate WindownTweaker are simply great for finding secret features. If you are a Windows user, you can learn how to hide secret data inside a file, cascade specific windows or undo an accidental file move.
As a Mac user, discover how to create search tokens when searching for specific files, manage the privacy settings of an app or automatically restart your computer when it freezes.
5. Learn How to Crack Passwords
By learning how to break into a computer you will certainly increase your self-esteem. Everyone knows how to create secure passwords, but only a legit computer hacker knows to get the data they want. This is also a good exercise, because you will learn how to protect from cyber criminals in the future.
Some of the world’s most famous hackers have been hired for government operations and international projects to defend against other cyber attackers. We don’t condone hacking, it does help though to be one step ahead of a cyber bully heading your way though.
6. Use the Scheduling Tasks
Sometimes it is better to stop performing all that system maintenance all by yourself. The built in task scheduler allows you to run any task you need, whether it is defragmentation, picture upload, reminders or even alarms.
7. Use the Keyboard More
A true computer geek knows all the basic keyboard shortcuts, such as “ctrl-C or ctrl-V”. Learn the most common shortcuts for Word, Gmail, Photoshop and other programs you use on a regular basis. After only a few months, you will be able to blow through text boxes and menus at unbelievable speeds with precision.
8. Discover New Operating Systems
If you really want to impress your friends, you should try to learn more about Windows, Mac and Linux.
Each OS has its own pros and cons that can be noticed with ease, so learning more about each system should not be such a daunting task. The cool thing is that there is a lot of software out there nowadays where it allows you to install another operating system on your computer so you can switch between each Operating System when you please.
9. Protect Your Data
Hide your precious info into a text file and hide it in a secret location on your computer.
Don’t forget to “Empty” your Recycle Bin or Trash on your computer once you have sent unwanted files or data there, that way it makes sure that nothing can be retrieved by any surprise guests you may have access your computer.
10. Tweak Your Hardware
With a bit of professional tweaking, you can now push your computer past its original limits. Installing Mac on non-Macs and over clocking your processors are not so hard to accomplish.
There are instructions out there to find out the details of your computers hardware, google search how to find your computer models information, note down the RAM and go down the road to your local computer hard ware store and buy bigger RAM sticks eg… 8GB, 16GB, 32GB etc… (Just make sure that each stick is the same make and model if you can for the best performance.
Jump on YouTube and learn how to Install RAM in your particular type of computer, this will increase your computer’s memory allowing your computer to run more efficiently.
All these cool simple tricks and hacks that can be learned from computer nerds are extremely useful, but require a little time and patience in the beginning.
Enjoy them and become a true computer geek.