Contrary to what many Americans think, hackers aren't all bad. While some create nefarious viruses that steal personal information, shut down corporate networks, or even hack into the high profile (and top secret) systems of NASA and the Dept. of Defense, some hone their hacking skills by figuring out ways to stop the “bad” hackers, or black hats, as they're sometimes called. Others use their hacking knowledge to improve security on websites, operating systems, or even develop new software programs. Using their powers for good rather than evil, these hackers also possess a slight element of danger, they are armed with the knowledge to take over the Internet after all, giving them just enough of that bad boy or bad girl edge to sweep you off your feet. Take a look at this list of the 10 famous hackers I'd like to date.
- Joanna Rutkowska: This Polish computer research specialist is probably the most attractive hacker on my list. Rutkowska has been busy testing the security systems on Windows Vista for a while now, but when she successfully broke into the Vista security checks, she earned herself a spot on the Five Hackers who Put a Mark on 2006 list compiled by eWeek Magazine. Why is she on my list of most dateable hackers? She's unbelievably smart, unbelievably beautiful, and undoubtedly one of Vista's most important assets.
- Tim Berners-Lee: You might have a hard time convincing Al Gore otherwise, but Tim Berners-Lee is the real father of the Internet. This super suave Brit has won several prestigious awards and has even been knighted by Queen Elizabeth. Once kicked out of the elite Oxford University for hacking mischief, Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web Consortium and is a senior consultant at MIT. I'm sorry, but a knight, an accent, and the inventor of the Internet? Tim Berners-Lee, will you marry me?
- Sarah Palin: Sarah Palin is an unlikely candidate for this list, not because of her looks (she's gorgeous and a former beauty queen), but because she's actually the governor of Alaska. Her hacking credentials come from an ethics investigation into the shady behavior of Republican party boss Randy Ruedrich, during which she legally hacked into his computer in pursuit of evidence. This plucky Tina Fey look-alike has got it all: brains, beauty, and power.
- Lance Spitzner: Self-confessed computer geek and former U.S. Army officer Lance Spitzner is perhaps most famous for creating the The Honeynet Project, a nonprofit research alliance that is “dedicated to improving the security of the Internet at no cost to the public,” according to the organization's website. Spitzner's heart of gold has earned him a top spot on my list. Check out this article from the Hack Report to learn more about his work with the Honeynet Project.
- Tsutomu Shimomura: If you've always dreamed of dating a celebrity, why not cozy up to Tsutomu Shimomura, a serious celebrity in the hacker world. A research scientist and consultant, Tsutomu Shimomura helped the FBI track down, arrest, and convict hacker Kevin Mitnick, “the most wanted computer criminal in United States history,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. After the high profile case ended, Shimomura wrote a book called Takedown, which was later adapted into a film version of the story.
- Stephen Wozniak: While he may not be the best looking guy on the block, as the co-founder of Apple, Steve “the Woz” Wozniak is set for life. He will go down in history as being a member of the elite group of computer pioneers who made computer technology accessible enough for average Americans. Before he was famous, though, Wozniak was a master at hacking telephone lines and creating blue boxes, which he even used “to call the Pope while pretending to be Henry Kissinger,” according to ITSecurity.com. On his personal site, Woz.org, Wozniak declares that “Everyone is Welcome…to a free exchange of information, the way it should be.” Forever the optimist, this techie legend gives back to the community through his sponsorship of the Los Gatos School District. Because of his many good deeds, and the fact that he's just plain rich as hell, “The Woz” makes my top 10 list.
- Robert Tappan Morris: Morris is the bad boy of the group. While a student at Cornell, Morris created the first ever Internet worm, allegedly “to gauge the size of the Internet.” Unfortunately for him, the worm was traced back to his computer, and the Business Insider reports that he was sentenced to 400 hours of community service and had to pay a $10,000 fine. Now, Morris seems to have found his way back from the dark side, and he is a well-respected professor at MIT. But wouldn't you just love to pick his brain about his rebellious hacking days over a drink or two?
- Linus Torvalds: As the inventor of Linux, Linus Torvalds is by default a hacker's hero. Linux is the OS of choice for computer hackers and legit geeks worldwide, making it essentially hackproof itself. Originally from Finland, Torvalds now lives in California, er, with his wife and family. If only we could reverse time and get to know the college boy genius that revolutionized the computer industry.
- Valerie Henson: For all you guys out there, Valerie Henson is one Linux hottie you'll want to keep around. By day, Henson is a freelance Linux consultant, but she's also the writer of the LinuxChix Kernel Hacking Lessons, which teach Linux users how to write their own codes and configure their own kernels. And, oh yeah, she's ridiculously pretty.
- Joe Desch: Don't worry, I know that Joe Desch is deceased, but again, if we could turn back time, you couldn't find a more noble hacker to take you out to dinner. Joe Desch worked for General Motors Radio, Telecom Laboratories and the National Cash Register Company, but he is most well-known for helping to break Nazi naval code during World War II, based on his invention of a machine that could apply “electronic counting to calculating mechanisms.” He worked with the U.S. Navy to develop the American version of the British cryptology machine, or bombe, and later assisted with cracking Japanese codes, which “in the Pacific” were “used to implement large scale defeats of the Japanese.”
While we may never get the chance to meet, let alone date, any of these famous hackers one thing is certain: hackers have a new image. Beauty queens, corporate leaders, former Army officers, and even knights of the British empire have all played the hacking game. It's not so bad, is it?