The Story Behind The Hackers Behind The Largest Credit Card Number Heist

from the soon-to-be-a-movie? dept

A few years ago, the story broke about how TJX, the corporate parent of a series of retail stores, including TJ Maxx and Marshalls, had suffered a huge data breach, after some hackers had accessed its computer network via an insecure wireless connection at one of the stores. A year and a half later, we wrote about the arrests of some of those involved. The following year, we wrote about another hack, at Heartland Payment Systems, that had the potential to surpass the TJX hack as "the largest ever" in terms of the number of records accessed. It later came to light that both hacks were actually done by the same guys, supposedly led by Albert Gonzalez, a hacker who was actually on the government payroll at the time (after turning informant upon being caught a few years earlier standing in front of an ATM with a handful of fake ATM cards).

Back in March, Gonzalez received a twenty year sentence for the crime -- the longest sentence for "hacking"-related crime in the US. Others involved in the deal have been sentenced to shorter terms recently as well. Now, Danielle Alvarez, from the Miami New Times, points us to an article written by the paper that details the story behind the hacking, and the folks involved -- including the news (which I hadn't seen elsewhere in following this story -- Update: a few people have pointed to this story that Wired had last year, which I had not seen before) that one suspect end up killing himself after hearing of Gonzalez's arrest. It's a long story, but reads like something that will get turned into a movie at some point. Of course, the study plays down the security flaws at the companies, like TJX, which sent unencrypted credit card data over its network (a point Gonzalez's legal team tried to make in properly calculating how much "damage" he did). Still, it's a fascinating story about a group of young hackers, who wanted to "get rich or die trying," and how at least one of them succeeded at the latter.
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Filed Under: credit cards, hacking
Companies: heartland payment systems, tjx

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2010 @ 10:36am

    sad story, especially Jonathan James' suicide. Albert deserves to serve a long time. even his plea comes across as arrogantly-contrite. amazing he had millions in cash in plastic tubs burried in his backyard.

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