Famous Hackers and Their Groups: Albert Gonzalez and his ‘Get Rich or Die Trying’ Crew
Hackers keep the cybersecurity world on edge. Albert Gonzalez and ‘Get Rich or Die Trying’ set the bar very high for what cybercriminal can accomplish. Gonzalez showed little of the regard for the noble aspects of hacktivism. He and his crew would shock the world.
Albert got a computer early in life. He was intrigued when the family had to call for help to get his computer fixed. There seemed to be an odd determination to figure out how everything worked. Albert was 12 at the time. It didn’t take him long to show his prowess. He hacked the NSA at age 14 (2). Even though the FBI visited, it was as if it never happened. He grew so bold it was almost as if he was validated by their visit.
Albert got involved with a group called Shadowcrew who had their own website on the darkweb. Unfortunately for him, he took to cashing out his victims stolen credit card information himself. An agent who wasn’t looking for the type of crime he was committing followed him into a bank lobby, and watched him remove cash from multiple accounts before taking him in (cite). This would be the beginning of a new chapter for the 22-year-old.
Albert was ultimately faced with becoming an informant or going to jail for a very long time. He chose to become an informant, and diligently worked with the Secret Service to set up members of the shadow for prosecution. It ultimately was a bit of foreshadowing as he would later demonstrate a knack for playing both sides of the law. He was forced by the secret service to lure his Shadowcrew colleagues onto a VPN they had a surveillance warrant for (1).
Albert eventually grew tired of working for the Secret Service. It wasn’t that he wasn’t doing a good job. They actually asked him to give seminars based on his work (1). He just seem to get bored with the same type of actions over and over. He was after something bigger. Something more thrilling.
‘Get Rich or Die Trying’ Crew:
Albert left the employment of the Secret service. He eventually formed a crew that had the motto of a popular song called Get Rich or Die Trying. They figured out how to infiltrate the networks of major retailers like Target and TJ Maxx. One popular technique they used was called ‘war-diving’ (1). This is where criminals would use antennas to tap into a store’s Wi-Fi network. After gaining access, they would work their way through computer systems until they had established themselves as administrators (site). Once this was all set up, Albert came along and worked his magic.
Jack of all Trades:
The thing about Albert is that he wasn’t just a cyber-thief who accessed customer’s data, he was criminal mastermind who ran a complete cybercriminal operation spanning multiple continents and countries. He had connections across the globe for getting the most granular of details such as hardware schematics for machines retailers used to process payments (1). He set up international servers and shell corporations to store information and launder money through. Anthony and his crew access to an incredible amount of stolen credit card data. Some of their hacks gave them access to 100 million credit card numbers (2).
The Ship Finally Sinks:
Albert’s crew starting going down one by one in separate incidents. It took some time for the government to trace the mysterious stolen data operation back to Anthony. They were shocked but not surprised to find out it was him. The sheer volume of stolen credit card information they get ‘Rich or Die Trying’ crew still may never be fully known. They may well have compromised the credit card information of 20,000,000 to 40,000,000 people across the globe. It is considered to be more heinous of a crime since Anthony was working for Secret Service during some of his cruise cybercrime spree. When Albert finally went down, he was given 20 years for his crimes, which at the time was the largest sentence handed out to a hacker (2).
Story of Albert Gonzalez and his crew reads like a novel. A young gun, quick to establish himself, who turns to good, but can’t fight the temptation of evil. Without intending to Anthony and his crew may well have done the world a lot of good. No they clearly did not have noble intentions. Their actions forced the cybersecurity world to face how vulnerable companies and organizations truly are. The measures taken in response to the black at work done by Albert Gonzales and the Get Rich or Die Trying crew ultimately has made the cyberspace a safer place.
The Great Cyber Heist https://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/magazine/14Hacker-t.html
TJX Hacker Gets 20 years https://www.wired.com/2010/03/tjx-sentencing/