FRAUD & SECURITY BUSINESS BRIEFING 2013: Poachers turned gamekeepers

12 September 2013 | Richard Irving


Borrowing from the old adage that it takes a hacker to catch a hacker, some of the sharpest criminal minds that have ever gone head-to-head with telecoms fraudbusters have done just as well on the right side of the law…

STEVE WOZNIAK (aka “Berkeley Blue”)
Yes, THE Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and the man credited with inventing Apple’s original operating system. At the age of 20, Wozniak started building so-called “blue boxes” – devices that could generate the same tones that phone operators used to route calls – in partnership with his long-time friend, Steve Jobs (yes, THE Steve Jobs). The sophisticated circuitry, which the pair sold to college friends for $170 apiece, incorporated several cutting-edge technologies that were to prove a hint of things to come, including an all-new long-life battery. Wozniak, who even now is reluctant to denounce the ethos of phone hacking, is estimated to be worth $100 million.

KEVIN MITNICK (aka“Condor”)
Once the world’s most wanted hacker, Mitnick stole the credit card details of hundreds of multi-millionaires in Silicon Valley – but never appeared to use them fraudulently – as well as hundreds of thousands of data files. He routinely hacked into America’s largest phone companies, latterly to trace the antics of FBI agents charged with hunting him down. On his release from jail, where he served a five-year sentence for wire fraud, Mitnick convinced a judge to overturn a ruling barring him from access to the internet.

Today Mitnick runs a successful anti-fraud firm – Mitnick Security Consulting.

ADRIAN LAMO (aka “the homeless hacker”)
Lamo, a sufferer of Asperger’s Syndrome, first gained notoriety in hacking circles in 2003 after breaking into the intranet of the New York Times and adding himself to the newspaper’s list of expert sources. Other victims included Yahoo, WorldCom and Microsoft. Unemployed and prone to wander across the US on Greyhound buses – hence the nickname – Lamo has latterly been linked to Project Vigilant, a private security firm that works with the FBI and the National Security Agency.

Lamo hit the headlines again in May 2010 when he turned Bradley Manning, the US soldier behind the biggest intelligence leak in US history, over to military authorities.