How well do you know the history of hackers and hacking?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

How much do you know about this widely-misunderstood and feared culture? Our quiz will cover famous and infamous hackers, as well as some terminology and significant events in the history of hacking. Test your knowledge now!

Pick the best definition of "hacker"

To the average person, "hacker" implies someone with criminal or disruptive intent. But the original meaning is someone who is clever and creative in their coding, who finds elegant and tricky solutions to problems. This quiz uses that broad defintion of "hacking." (Side note: "hacking" is also casual, fun horseback riding, but if you chose that option, this quiz might not be for you).


What mask do members of Anonymous wear in public protests?

The Guy Fawkes' mask was made popular by the movie "V for Vendetta" before being adopted by Anonymous. Nowadays, the grinning Van-Dyke-bearded face is familiar to anyone who watches the news.


A more accurate name for a malicious hacker is:

"Cracker," for "criminal hacker" or someone who "cracks" security, is a hacker with bad intentions. Of course, Hollywood is probably never going to give up on calling them "hackers" -- the term is just too ingrained.


Which hacker group named itself after their workspace?

Two of its founding members had workspace in a Boston loft. Well, half of one -- their wives ran a millinery business on the other side. Which tells you all you need to know about the ongoing gender gap in hacking. (Sigh).


After the Guy Fawkes mask, what else is a symbol of Anonymous?

Anonymous' videos on YouTube start with a crest featuring the headless man standing in front of a globe, framed by a laurel wreath on each side. The impressive graphics and masked face of the newsreader is only slightly undermined by the fact that on YouTube, the videos are preceded by an ad for the Macy's One-Day Sale or Neutrogena skin cream.


Another term for cracker is ...

Hackers are often divided into "white hats" and "black hats," terms from Westerns in which the bad guy wore a black hat and the lawman wore white. The term "gray-hat" is sometimes heard as well, for a hacker with unclear motives.


Which of these hackers created the Apple II computer?

Steve Wozniak was the nuts-and-bolts guy who mostly built the Apple II, one of the first home computers. Later, his reputation was overshadowed by charismatic brand evangelist, Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder. In fact, to date there have been two major Hollywood films about Jobs, while Wozniak ended up on "Dancing With the Stars." Nobody said life was fair!


Which hacker was played by Skeet Ulrich in the movie "Takedown"?

Kevin Mitnick hacked into Pacific Bell voice mail computers during his supervised probation for another cracking offense. He then fled, eluding police for more than two years. Today, he's a computer security consultant.


What is the name of Pekka Himanen's highly-influential book on hacking?

Himanen's book is named after an earlier classic, Max Weber's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism." Himanen's overall argument was that the hacker way of thinking and working is a direct challenge to the Protestant-capitalist way of life


What is Linus Torvalds best known for creating?

Among other accomplishments, the Finnish-born Torvalds created the kernel of the Linux operating system. He was named after another genius -- Linus Pauling, who won an unshared Nobel prize in chemistry.


The famous glossary of hacker slang is called:

The Jargon File is a famous guide to hacker terms, and can still be found online. If you must have a print copy, it was published as "The New Hacker's Dictionary" in 1991.


Andrew Auernheimer, who hacked AT&T and served time for it, went by which handle online?

Auernheimer features prominently in the documentary "The Hacker Wars." A colorful and controversial figure, Auernheimer is also involved with a trolling group whose name is so offensive we can't repeat it here.


Who primarily created the World Wide Web?

Most people don't think "hacker" when they think of Tim Berners-Lee. But he certainly embodies the hacker idea that there are more important things than money, and that access to information is one of them. If he'd chosen to monetize his creation, Berners-Lee would be a billionaire today. As it was, he received a tribute at the opening ceremony London Olympics in 2012 -- not too shabby!


For what is hacker Tsutomo Shimomura best known?

Shimomura decided to hunt down Mitnick after being the target of a spoofing attack. Shimomura might not have taken it so personally if he hadn't received mocking phone calls afterward -- which turned out not to be from Mitnick at all, but from another hacker. The Mitnick-Shimomura affair inspired two books, as well as the movie "Takedown."


Which hacker is most associated with the GNU free software project?

Stallman is radically opposed to proprietary software. But as Pekka Himanen explains in "The Hacker Ethic," Stallman isn't anti-capitalism per se. Himanen suggests that Stallman uses the word 'free' " ... in the sense of free speech, not free beer."


Which of the following was NOT a hacker group?

Yes, it's appealing to imagine a group of young female hackers with a tongue-in-cheek Victorian nickname. Sadly, though, this one is fictitious; the other three were/are real.


For what is Satoshi Nakamoto known?

Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym of the inventor of Bitcoin, the best-known cryptocurrency. Bitcoin got its start in 2008, when Nakamoto published a paper online called "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System."


Who was later revealed to be Satoshi Nakamoto?

All three men listed above have been suggested as being Nakamoto. (Wright actually self-identified, then didn't provide proof). Not to mention the possibility that "Satoshi Nakamoto" is a handle that several people are hiding behind. Nakamoto is like the D.B. Cooper of cyberspace!


Which of these is a UK hacker who broke into US military computers?

McKinnon -- who bears a passing resemblance to "Sherlock" star Benedict Cumberbatch -- hacked American military computers and left the pointed message "Your security is crap." He later claimed he was looking for evidence for free energy and of military contact with UFOs. Just what the world needs: an Art Bell with coding skills.


Albert Gonzalez was associated with a group called _______, which specialized in sale of credit-card numbers and identity documents.

Gonzalez received 20 years for his role in the theft of credit-card information from businesses like TJ Maxx and Dave & Buster's. America likes its Robin-Hood-type heroes, but when you mess with our Dave&Buster's, you've gone too far.


Which South Florida hacker was just 16 years old when he was arrested by federal agents?

James broke into sensitive Department of Defense computers, which brought him to the attention of the feds, and eventually got him sentenced to six months house arrest. James' story has a tragic ending: he shot and killed himself at age 24 to avoid prosecution for computer crimes with which he insisted he wasn't involved.


What is the name of the largest annual hacker convention?

DEF CON has been held for more 20 years. It takes its name from the shortened military phrase "defense readiness condition," which was used in the movie "WarGames," about a young hacker and supercomputer who nearly start a world war.


In what city is DEF CON always held?

Someplace nearer to Silicon Valley or to MIT might make more sense. But, hey, sometimes hackers just want to drink and play poker like the rest of us.


"Hacktivism" refers to:

The biggest name in hacktivism is Anonymous. They feature prominently in "We Are Legion," a documentary on hacktivism.


Who is the leader of Anonymous?

Anonymous is a loose coalition with no leader. But individuals, like journalist Barrett Brown, have been willing to act as a kind of publicist for the group.


Project Chanology was Anonymous' war against what?

Anonymous fought back after the Church of Scientology began trying to scrub an unflattering video of scientologist Tom Cruise from the Internet. The name "chanology" apparently derives from the "4chan" message board where anonymous and controversial content thrive.


Wikileaks founder Julian Assange went by what name online?

In his early years as a hacker, Assange got into a Who's Who of online targets, including NASA, the US Defense Department, Citibank, and Australian government sites. (Assange is Australian). He was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the movie, "The Fifth Estate."


Hector Xavier Monsegur was better known online as whom?

Sabu was a co-founder of the group LulzSec. He worked from an apartment in a housing project in New York City, where neighbors were shocked when his secret identity was revealed.


What is a "black fax"?

While not requiring any programming skills, black faxing goes back to the early idea of hacking as committing a creative or inventive prank. A black fax uses up the receiver's ink and, depending on the number of sheets, can deny them the use of their own fax machine for a period of time.


Against what other target has Anonymous directed their fury?

Anonymous has taken on those that use and share child pornography online, high school football players in Steubenville who raped an unconscious girl, and top security firm, HB Gary Federal.


What did HB Gary Federal do to anger Anonymous?

Aaron Barr, the head of HB Gary, claimed to have infiltrated Anonymous and discovered the identity of some of its main players. Anonymous responded by defacing his web site, gaining access to and releasing internal HB Gary documents, and possibly even remotely wiping Barr's iPad. Harsh!


LulzSec derived its name from the acronym for what?

"Lulz" is a corruption of "LOL," a representation of laughter in chat rooms and message boards that is still used today. "LulzSec" itself is short for "Lulz Security": "Laughing at Your Security since 2011."


The LulzSec mascot wore what kind of glasses?

He's quite a toff, Monocle Guy. He also wears a top hat and holds a glass of what looks like red wine.


Who was revealed to be an FBI informant for part of his time as a supposed hacktivist?

Sabu was arrested and immediately "flipped," or became an FBI informant. Controversially, this meant that the FBI knew about the damaging Stratfor hack, which Sabu instigated, before it happened.


A group calling themselves the Guardians of Peace hacked what film studio?

Sony was set to release a comedy, "The Interview," that was unflattering to North Korea. So the Guardians of Peace could easily be state-sponsored, though their identity has never been learned.


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