Hacker High: 10 Stories of Teenage Hackers Getting into the System

Updated: September 03, 2010

Much like Lolcats, some überteens are up in the Internet, stealing your ... well, whatever they want. If you envision these kids as harmless nerds who hole themselves up in their rooms clicking away their adolescence, check out this list, which details the costly and frightening toll their computer "games" have exacted throughout recent history.

  1. Student at Downingtown High School West — Downingtown, Pa.

    A 15-year-old student was arrested and charged with felonies in May 2008 for stealing personal data from the Downingtown School District's computer system and downloading files that contained the names and Social Security numbers of more than 41,000 of district residents (including 15,000 students). The unnamed student allegedly accessed the files, which were located on the district's server, through a school computer during a study period, and officials believe that he copied the files to his home computer. This is the second time in the 2007-2008 academic year that a student has broken into the Downingtown School District's computer system; another student was arrested for hacking into the system in December 2007.

  2. Matthew the phone phreak — Boston

    In February 2008, the FBI identified the culprit in a 2005 Colorado "swatting" incident — a phone hoax involving hackers who call in fake emergencies and get SWAT teams to barrel into people's homes. The responsible party was a 17-year-old East Boston "phreak," or phone hacker, named Matthew. The remarkable thing about him is that he's blind. Matthew, who's been at the game since he was 14, is considered one of the most skilled phreakers alive.

  3. Jeanson James Ancheta — Los Angeles

    In 2005, the FBI nabbed 20-year-old Jeanson James Ancheta, a reported member of the "Botmaster Underground," a group of script kiddies known for their bot attacks and spam inundation. His sinister cyberscheme infected computers at the United States Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Divistion in China Lake, Calf. and the Defense Information Systems Agency, a component of the United States Department of Defense. In the first prosecution of its kind in the U.S., Ancheta was arrested and indicted on 17 federal charges for profiting from the use of "botnets."

  4. Aaron Caffrey Britain

    Aaron Caffrey 19, was accused of almost destroying of North America's biggest ports, the Port of Houston in Texas, by hacking into its computer systems. Computers at the port were hit with a DoS (denial of service) attack on Sept. 20, 2001, which crashed systems at the port that contained data for helping ships navigate the harbor.

    The prosecution said that the Brit's computer contained a list of 11,608 IP addresses of vulnerable servers, along with malicious script. The attack on Houston was apparently tied to a female chat-room user called Bokkie, who had made anti-U.S. comments online. Still, a jury found Caffrey not guilty in October 2003.

  5. Raphael Gray — Wales

    Raphael Gray, 19, became the subject of an international investigation after he got his hands on 23,000 Internet shoppers' details and posted some of them to Web sites. The scheme, which Gray claimed was an attempt to expose security weaknesses in Internet shopping, cost users hundreds of thousands of pounds. Gray was been

  6. c0mrade — Miami

    In 2000, a 16-year-old from Miami known on the Internet as "c0mrade" became the first juvenile to go to jail on federal computer-crime charges for hacking into NASA. The boy admitted to attacking a military computer network used by the DTRA (Defense Threat Reduction Agency) from Aug. 23, 1999 to Oct. 27, 1999. The youth installed a backdoor access on a server that intercepted more than 3,300 electronic messages to and from DTRA staff. The backdoor also accessed at least 19 usernames and passwords of DTRA employees, including at least 10 usernames and passwords on military computers. The unnamed juvenile was sentenced to six months in a detention facility.

  7. Mafiaboy — Canada

    Over a five-day period in February 2000, Yahoo! Inc., CNN, eBay Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. became victims of the largest DoS attack ever to hit the Internet. The attacker? A 14-year-old Canadian named Mike Calce, who went by "Mafiaboy" online. He became the most notorious teenage hacker of all time, causing millions of dollars worth of damage on the Internet.

    Calce initially denied responsibility for the assault but later pled guilty to most of the nearly 50 charges against him. On Sept. 12, 2001, the Montreal Youth Court sentenced him to eight months of "open custody," one year of probation, restricted use of the Internet and a small fine. Calce later wrote as a columnist on computer-security topics for the French-language newspaper Le Journal de Montréal.

  8. Ehud Tenenbaum — Israel

    Computers at the Pentagon were targeted in an attack called "Solar Sunrise" during a tense time in the Persian Gulf in 1998. The attack led to the establishment of round-the-clock, online guards at major military computer sites. At the time, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre called the attack "the most organized and systematic attack" on U.S. military systems.

    While officials initially pointed fingers at two American teens, 19-year-old Israeli hacker Ehud Tenenbaum, who was called "The Analyzer," was identified as their leader and arrested. Tenenbaum later became the CTO of a computer-consulting firm.

  9. Richard Pryce and Matthew Bevan — Britain

    Two teens touched off one of the biggest ever international computer crime investigations in the U.S. when, for several weeks in 1994, they attacked the Pentagon's computer network and tried to get access to a nuclear facility somewhere in Korea. The cyberculprits were identified as 16-year-old music student Richard Pryce (known as "Datastream Cowboy") and Matthew Bevan (known as "Kuji"), who was arrested two years later at age 21. Conspiracy charges against both Pryce and Bevan were later dropped, though Pryce was ordered to pay a small fine.

  10. 414s — Milwaukee

    They may sound like a cheesy '80s band, but the 414s were actually a band of youthful hackers who broke into dozens of high-profile computer systems, including ones at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Later uncovered as six youths ranging in age from 16 to 22, the group met when they were members of a local Explorer Scout troop. These Scouts-turned-cybercriminals were investigated by the FBI in 1983.

    The media took to the story of the youths, who met the somewhat sexy profile of early '80s computer hackers as established by Matthew Broderick's character in "WarGames," which was released the same year that the 414s rose to glory. In fact, 17-year-old Neal Patrick got more than his 15 minutes of fame when he appeared on the Sept. 5, 1983 cover of Newsweek. Most of the members of the 414s were not prosecuted, but their cybershenanigans lead to government hearings on hacking, as well as the introduction of six bills concerning computer crime in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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