Born: December 12, 1983 – Miami, Florida
Died: May 18, 2008 – Miami, Florida
A native of Miami, Jonathan Joseph James took to computing at the age of 6. He became so obsessed with computers that at age 13 his parents took away his computers, which resulted in James running away and refused to return home until he was given back the computers.
In his teenager years, James began “cracking” computer systems using the pseudonym of “C0mrade.” Some of his early intrusions include BellSouth, and the Miami-Dade school system but moved on to bigger targets, which is where he caught the attention of law enforcement.
In 1999, James installed a backdoor on a Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) server in Dulles, VA. The DTRA is the division of the Department of Defense that monitors possible threats to the United States. This backdoor allowed him to install a sniffer that gave him the ability to capture thousands of messages between employees at the DOD and a number of usernames and passwords.
During this period he also penetrated the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and downloaded the NASA code that controls temperature and humidity in the International Space Station.
The motivation for his hacking: “Fun!”
On January 26, 2000, James was apprehended by the federal authorities and at the age of 16 became the first juvenile incarcerated for cyber crimes. He pled guilty to charges of juvenile delinquency and was forced to write letters of apology to the DOD and NASA. James was then sentenced to seven month’s house arrest.
While on probation he tested positive for drugs and was sent to a juvenile facility in Alabama where he ultimately served six months.
Several years later, the Secret Service were on the trail of a cyber theft ring led by now incarcerated hacker Albert Gonzalez, who were responsible for massive consumer credit card breaches at major retailers like TJX, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21, DSW OfficeMax, and Dave & Buster’s.
Some of James colleagues and friends were members of the ring. While this was a for profit scheme, James “MO,” was always hacking for his own entertainment not profit. In Jan 2007, the Secret Service, raided James’, his brother’s, and his girlfriend’s houses to investigate his role in the TJX breach in which he claimed he was innocent. During the raid on James’ house the Secret Service found a gun and suicide note from a previous suicide attempt.
Included in a subsequent criminal complaint filed against the hacking crew led by Gonzales was unnamed co-conspirator referred to as “J.J” who helped with the Office Max hacks. James was convinced J.J referred to him although another hacker in Gonzales’ crew went by the moniker Jim Jones, so it may have been him..
At the Office Max it was said J.J. and Christopher Scott, who was indeed a friend of James and a member of the ring, sat in the parking lot, accessed the store’s WIFI and were able to pull down credit and debit card magstripe swipe information and PINs. The information was then relayed to ringleader, Albert Gonzales.
James strongly denied any involvement with the ring.
Prone to depression, on May 18, 2008, James was found dead in the shower of a self-inflicted shotgun blast. It is believe he committed suicide out of fear that he would be prosecuted for crimes he did not commit. In his suicide note he wrote that it was the only way to “regain control” over the situation.”
“I have no faith in the ‘justice’ system – perhaps my actions today, and this letter, will send a strong message to the public, but I have lost control of this situation, and this is my only way of recovering it . ”
“Now, honestly, honestly, I have nothing to do with TJX. Despite the fact that Chris (Scott) and Albert Gonzalez are the most dangerous and destructive hackers the Feds have ever captured, I am a much more objective Juicy for public opinion than two random idiots.That’s life. ”
“Remember, it’s not about what you win or lose, it’s about what I win or lose sitting in a prison for 20, 10 or even 5 years for a crime I did not commit, this is not my way of ‘Win’, so I’d rather die free. ”
Sources Used For This Article: