For America's Favorite Hacker, Bank Fraud Is Child's Play

Before transitioning into journalism, Kevin Poulsen, currently a senior editor at Wired, was known as Dark Dante. One of America's best-known hackers, Poulsen was featured on NBC's Unsolved Mysteries (that night, the show's 1-800 number crashed) before police caught up with him. After spending several years in jail, Poulsen reinvented himself as an authority on the technology he once exploited. He now oversees Threat Level, a blog about online privacy and security.

As a preview to the state-side release of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestVanity Fair sat down with Poulsen to ask him about Lisbeth Salander, one of the major characters in the Stieg Larsson trilogy, who apparently (we've never read them) moonlights as a hacker. The best stuff comes at the end of the interview, when Michael Hogan, paranoid that modern-day Dark Dante's could gain access to the nuclear codes, poses a series of hacker scenarios to Poulsen:

That sounds really good. And now, if you'll bear with me, I want to put a couple of scenarios to you and you can say whether they would be easy, medium, or hard to pull off. First: Gaining complete access to the contents of another person's computer.

It depends on the person, but for the average target, that's easy.

Siphoning money out of a series of shell companies and transferring it to a Swiss bank account.

How much money?

A few million.

A few million? Um, medium.

Remotely shutting down the security cameras in a bank.

That's farfetched, but when it's possible, it's medium to hard.

Publishing your own message to the world on the homepage of The New York Times' Web site.

Easy.

Beaming your image onto the Jumbotron at Yankee Stadium.

It's too specific to give an accurate appraisal, because we don't know the configuration of their Jumbotron. We've seen pranks where digital billboards have been taken over--it's one of those things where hitting a specific target like the Jumbotron at Yankee Stadium could be hard or even impossible, but if your goal is to hit just any vulnerable Jumbotron, then it drops down to feasible and probably medium level of difficulty.

Shutting down the Northeast power grid.

Hard to impossible.

That's a relief. Fixing the Oscars.

You mean they're not fixed?

Read the full interview on Vanity Fair.

Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In