A recent article published by Forbes Magazine gives a brief outline of “The World’s Richest Hackers” telling the “once was” stories of these technology pioneers. Along with the eight individuals profiled, the article first introduces you to WhatsApp founder Jan Koum briefly discussing how his “net worth suddenly jumped to $6.8 billion last month when his startup was acquired by Facebook.”
We are first illuminated by Koum who, as the article states, started his technology life “as a teenage immigrant from Ukraine” living in Mountain View, California. The article indicates that he would use a “wardialer” – an electronic device that “cycles through phone numbers, dialing them on a modem to find open connections“—to search and “explore faraway networks” all while sitting in his bedroom. Koum was quoted in the article to say, “The Internet was so insecure back then. Servers on the fringes of the Internet with root account and no passwords…The challenging part was finding these systems where you have to learn your way around. There were no manuals.”
The article states that once while on an exploration, Koum “found his way onto the network of the computer graphics giant Silicon Graphics” but never with malicious intent. Koum was again quoted in the article to say,“At some point I connected to the server. And that’s as much as I’m going to say.” Now as this article exhibits, the 38-year-old enjoys his success and his ranking as the “two-hundred-and-second richest person on the planet“, while we are drawn in with curiosity about those other success stories who shared his craving for “the wilder side of the hacker frontier.”
We read on in the article about others including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and co-founder Paul Allen, Apple’s Steve Jobs, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and see that all had beginnings which took a course similar to Koum’s. This crowd joined the hacking ranks early in life by gaining “unauthorized access to an administrator account” at a major computing corporation, spending time sifting through dumpsters for “printouts of source code“, and “breaking into the network” of a organization that one of these individuals “hoped would hire him to show the company its security vulnerabilities“, according to Forbes.
Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation was quoted in the article to say, “Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Wozniak, Paul Allen, all have told stories or written in autobiographies about how when were younger they engaged in legally questionable activities, and how they used those mostly harmless experiences to create the biggest tech companies in the world.” As we read deeper into this article and the profiles of the eight individuals featured, we will discover an interesting history of technology – its past, present and possible future – and the risk, success and ideas that motivate others to follow their paths.