Nicholas Knight and his hacker crew, Digi7al, were a lot like other hacking crews. According to a Federal indictment filed this week, they broke into computers, took information, posted it, and boasted about their exploits.
But there is a key difference: Nicholas Knight was employed by the Navy on the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. He called himself a "nuclear black hat," black hat being a common term for a broad array of malicious hackers (think outlaw motorcycle clubs).
Knight was working as sysadmin supporting the ship's nuclear reactor. But the indictment alleges, he was also hacking Los Alamos National Laboratory, AT&T, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the Toronto Police Service, and the Navy itself.
The Navy discharged Knight after he was caught trying to worm his way into a Navy database while aboard a Navy vessel.
The exploit that drew the focused attention of the authorities was the capture of at least part of a database that held the information of 200,000 Navy servicepeople who were being transferred. They employed a common hacking technique called a SQL injection, in which attackers probe a database to understand and (ultimately) exploit it.