Don’t Leave Yourself Defenseless Against Outlaws

Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and the Younger Brothers were among the most notorious outlaws of the 19th century American West, robbing banks, holding up stagecoaches, and leaving general mayhem in their wake. Just as dangerous in their own ways, but on a global scale, are the computer hackers of today who have managed to gain access to systems at the NSA, NASA, and scores of other sensitive governmental, corporate, and private sites one would think were well defended. They disrupt the systems that society depends upon, and create havoc both local and worldwide.

You may not have to worry about Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch Gang, but cybersecurity is critical for businesses large and small. Make sure your operation has security software that is up to the task. To give you an idea of what’s been going on out there, here are some of the most infamous cybercriminals:

Still in the Hoosegow

Albert Gonzalez was the leader of ShadowCrew, a hacker group that stole and sold 1.5 million credit card numbers as well as committed other identity thefts. When caught, he avoided incarceration by providing information against dozens of his cohorts. He then went rogue, and his personal worth rose to $170 million after a 2-year spree in which he collected over 170 million credit card and ATM numbers from private computer networks. Caught and convicted, he was sentenced in 2005 to twenty years in prison, which he is currently serving at Leavenworth Penitentiary.

David Ray Camez was the first person convicted of cybercrime under RICO, the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act. He was a member of a vast criminal organization of up to 5,500 members operating on a global scale by trafficking in stolen and counterfeit credit card account data, money laundering, and other cyber fraud schemes. In 2014 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. At the time of his sentencing he was already serving seven years for cybercrimes committed by the age of 17. 

Hung Up Their Spurs

Kevin Mitnick became a computer outlaw at the age of 12, hacking the Los Angeles city bus system. He later served a year in prison for hacking a corporate network, and then fled supervised release to resume his hacking career, going so far as to breach the U.S. national defense warning system. After another 5-year prison term, he turned white hat, and is now operating Mitnick Security. Mitnick’s exploits sparked the film War Games, and his capture was the basis for the film Track Down.

Kevin Poulsen hacked his way onto the FBI’s wanted list by stealing federal wiretap information. He was captured and served 51 months in prison, after which he switched hats and became an investigative journalist and senior editor of Wired News.


Owen Thor Walker was 17 when he became the head of an international hacker network that infiltrated 1.3 million computers and stole more than $20 million from bank accounts. He only profited by $32,000 for his efforts because others actually stole the money based on code he had written. When caught, Walker pleaded guilty and paid back $11,000 but never served time. His last known occupation was as an online security advisor in his native Australia.

Still at Large

Julian Assange began hacking at 16, making forays into networks at the Pentagon and other US Department of Defense facilities as well as many major corporations. He founded WikiLeaks in 2006, publishing a series of governmental leaks including what are probably his most well-known, the thousands of private emails from then-candidate Hillary Clinton. Assange is currently sheltering in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to the United States.

Gary McKinnon, a citizen of the United Kingdom, was accused by the US government of having hacked 97 military and NASA computer systems in 2001-2002, deleting critical files and incapacitating the US military network for days. The British government continues to refuse his extradition for prosecution, the most current reason being that he is seriously ill. 

Anonymous is a hacker collective that’s been in operation since about 2003. It started with cyber pranks, and grew in sophistication with coordinated attacks on the Church of Scientology the KKK, and a number of foreign governments, as well as with taking down websites and leaking documents in a number of high profile criminal investigations including that of Charlie Hebdo. While some of the group’s members have been brought to justice, Anonymous lives on.

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