Hackers have enjoyed a mixed reputation over the last thirty years, romanticised and demonised in equal measure. Variously portrayed as weird, anti-social nerds or the revolutionaries of the digital age (and sometimes both), their exploits have often ended with threats of imprisonment, as shown this week in the release of Hector "Sabu" Xavier Monsegur, a LulzSec hacker turned informant for the FBI.
With hacking now a regular feature of the news cycle it's worth looking back on some of the pioneers. Whether you admire or admonish them, some of the heists pulled off by the hackers are impressive, showing what a few men (and it is mostly men) armed with keyboards can do to multinational organisations and some of the world's strongest governments.
Active: 1980s to 2000
Based: Texas, US
Also known as Legion of Hackers, LOD was founded by a man going by the name Lex Luther, and in addition to hacking produced tech journals on the subject, some of which are still available online. The group was chaotic and dysfunctional, sharing members with Masters of Deception with whom they would later conduct the Great Hacker War, but during the 90s it was legendary in the underground scene of hackers.
Most prominent among these was hacker Mark "Phiber Optik" Abene, a brash New Yorker who would later be expelled from the group after a quarrel with Chris "Erik Bloodaxe" Goggans, following a feud between the pair. LOD members would later go on to form Comsec Data Security, a professional firm that hired its services out to the sort of companies the hacking underground used to target.