You should know these top 10 hackers who turned activists
Hacking combined with activisms aka Hacktivism is an occurrence definite to the digital age, represents the rebellious use of computers and computer networks for a politically or socially motivated purpose. With roots in hacker culture and hacker ethics, its ends are often related to the free speech, human rights, or freedom of information movements.
The term was coined by the Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) member known as “Omega” in 1994. Hacktivism is sometimes ambiguous and there exists significant disagreement over the kinds of activities and purposes it encompasses due to the different kind of meanings of its root words.
The individual who performs an act of hacktivism is said to be a hacktivist. While the tools and methods used by a hacktivist are the same as a hacker, they hack in order to disrupt services and bring attention to a political or social cause. They signify a broad range of personalities and goals. Recently, they have played a huge role in the collective conscious, as cyberattacks at banks and governments become a more frequent incidence.
1. Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden is an American computer professional, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and former contractor for the United States government who copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 without prior authorization. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the co-operation of telecommunication companies and European governments. Since the whistleblowing, Snowden is one of the most powerful figures on Twitter.
President Obama once said of Edward Snowden: “I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”
2. Aaron Swartz
Aaron Swartz was an American computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer, and Internet hacktivist. He was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS and the Markdown publishing format, the organization Creative Commons, the website framework web.py, and the social news site Reddit, in which he became a partner after its merger with his company, Infogami.
Swartz was arrested near the Harvard campus by MIT police and a U.S. Secret Service agent on the night of January 6, 2011. He was accused on two state charges of breaking and entering due to installing a computer in an Institute closet to download academic journal articles from JSTOR with intent to commit a felony.
Swartz faced $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison. However, he declined a plea bargain under which he would have served six months in federal prison. When prosecution rejected his counteroffer, he was found hanging in his Brooklyn apartment two days later by his partner. In June 2013, Swartz was subsequently inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.
Swartz’s family and his partner created a memorial website on which they issued a statement, saying: “He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place.”
3. The Jester
The Jester is an unidentified computer vigilante who describes himself as a grey hat hacktivist. He claims to be responsible for attacks on WikiLeaks, 4chan, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Islamist websites. He claims to be acting out of American patriotism.
He claims to have developed a denial-of-service (DoS) tool known as “XerXeS” that he uses. One of The Jester’s habits is to tweet “TANGO DOWN” on Twitter whenever he claims to have successfully taken down a website.
4. Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown is an American journalist, essayist and satirist. In order to aid analysis of the troves of hacked emails and other leaked information concerning the inner workings of the cyber-military-industrial complex, he founded Project PM, a research collaboration and wiki.
In January 2015, Brown was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison for the crimes of accessory after the fact, obstruction of justice, and threatening a federal officer stemming from the FBI’s investigation into the 2012 Stratfor email leak. Prosecutors had previously brought other charges linked with his sharing of an HTTP link to the leaked Stratfor data. However, those charges were dropped in 2014. Brown was also required to pay almost $900,000 to Stratfor as part of his sentence.
Prior to 2011, Brown has closely worked with the hacktivist collective Anonymous.
5. Ron Gonggrijp
Robbert Valentijn Gonggrijp is a Dutch hacker and one of the founders of XS4ALL. This group is one of the first ISPs that offered access to the Internet for private individuals in the Netherlands. Ron was known as a teenage hacker and appeared as one of the main characters in Jan Jacobs’s book Kraken en Computers.
Ron speaks out against surveillance on citizens by governments and the lack of security in public electronic voting systems and is considered was considered a major security threat by the Authorities in U.S and Netherlands
6. Jake Davis (Topiary)
Jake Davis is a former hacker and has worked with Anonymous, LulzSec, and similar hacktivist groups. During a court appearance in 2011, he pleaded guilty to a charge related to a hack on the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s (SOCA) website. Davis also ran the LulzSec Twitter account. Information on his computer leaked him to a hack of Sony.
7. Oxblood Ruffin
Canadian hacker Oxblood Ruffin is a member of the hacker group Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc), a hacktivist group, for which he serves as “Foreign Minister.” He is also the founder and executive director of Hacktivismo, an offshoot of cDc. Oxblood is active in human rights causes and is a vocal proponent of hacktivism, a term which he has helped to define. He has participated in both technology and human rights conferences, both on his own and along with cDc. He has also written articles for The Register and .net. Oxblood is also an irregular contributor to both the cDc blog and the Hacktivismo News blog. He can often been seen in the media criticizing the actions of Anonymous and LulzSec.
8. Deric Lostutter (KYAnonymous)
Deric Lostutter is a hacker and activist known by the online moniker KYAnonymous. Currently, he works as a private investigator. Deric is also a political commentator for Fox News.
When two members of an Ohio high school football team were charged with the rape of an intoxicated 16-year-old girl, Lostutter helped leak a video of two Ohio high school football players joking about the rape of an intoxicated 16-year-old girl. In April 2013, Deric’s Kentucky home was raided by the F.B.I. for his alleged participation in exposing the Steubenville Ohio Rape Case Scandal in which two members of an Ohio high school football team were charged with the rape of an intoxicated 16-year-old girl, and 6 school officials were indicted on the cover-up. He faces charges for hacking a fan page of the football team and could face a 10-year prison sentence.
Labelled as the best-ever “black hat” hacker by Anonymous, Gary McKinnon is a Scottish systems administrator and hacker who was accused in 2002 of perpetrating the “biggest military computer hack of all time,” even though he himself states that he was merely looking for evidence of free energy suppression and a cover-up of UFO activity and other technologies potentially useful to the public.
He was accused of hacking into 97 United States military and NASA computers over a 13-month period between February 2001 and March 2002, causing a total of over £500,000 in damage.
The U.S. authorities stated he deleted critical files from operating systems, which shut down the United States Army’s Military District of Washington network of 2,000 computers for 24 hours. McKinnon also posted a notice on the military’s website: “Your security is crap”.
After the September 11 attacks in 2001, he deleted weapons logs at the Earle Naval Weapons Station, rendering its network of 300 computers inoperable and paralyzing munitions supply deliveries for the US Navy’s Atlantic Fleet. McKinnon was also accused of copying data, account files and passwords onto his own computer. U.S. authorities stated the cost of tracking and correcting the problems he caused was over $700,000.
He faced trial in the U.S. and up to 70 years in jail if convicted. On 16 October 2012, after a series of legal proceedings in Britain, Home Secretary Theresa May withdrew her extradition order to the United States under human rights laws amid fears that he would kill himself. McKinnon has become a UFO hunter and has accused NASA of deleting vital clues to aliens while releasing its space videos.
10. Jacob Appelbaum
Jacob Appelbaum, a Cult of the Dead Cow member, is an American independent journalist, computer security researcher, artist, and hacker. He has been employed by the University of Washington, and was a core member of the Tor project, a free software network designed to provide online anonymity.
He is the co-founder of the San Francisco hacker space Noisebridge and has worked for kink.com and Greenpeace. Appelbaum was a trusted confidant of NSA’s Edward Snowden and had access to Snowden’s top-secret documents during the 2013 global surveillance disclosure.