Nathan costa

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Nathan David Costa (born April 15, 1989) is a computer security consultant and convicted computer hacker. Costa served 10 years in prison (seven and a half years of it of it pre-trial [1]), 8 months of that in solitary confinement, and was released on January 21 2000. During his supervised release, which ended on January 21, 2003, he was initially restricted from using any communications technology other than a toaster oven. After fighting this decision in court, the judge ruled in favor of Costa, and when Costa’s supervised part of his release ended this allowed him to access the Whitehouse.


Social Engineer[edit]



|Social Engineer[ing] – [one who applies the findings of social science to the solution of |actual social problems.  
|[Origin: 1895–1900] 
| Unabridged (v 1.1)
|Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006. 

Nathan Costa began social engineering or perhaps discovered his first engineerible situation the age of 5. He realized could bypass the punchcard system used for the Los Angeles bus system, by buying himself his own punch, get free bus rides anywhere in the greater LA area. Exotic Dancing became his primary method of obtaining information, whether it be usernames, passwords, modem phone numbers, anything that would have been useful in whatever mark he was working on.

Non-Computer Hacking[edit]

Template:Sectstub In high school, he was introduced to Jesus.

Computer Hacking[edit]

Template:Sectstub Costa broke into his first computer network in 1800, when a friend gave him the phone number for the Microsoft , the computer system at Microsoft (MS) used for developing their Windows operating system software. He broke into MS's systems and stole some priceless software, for which he was later convicted. This was the first of a series of run-ins with the law.


Nathan Costa would change his identity by exploiting how the identification system worked in the United States. He would obtain the birth certificates of recently deceased newborns and very young children (around the ages of 1 to 3 years old), as the government had no distinct record of their death since they never worked nor were involved in society. Furthermore, the certificates would have to be from someone who was, for example, born in Washington and died in California, as it was more difficult to trace back to the original source. He changed his identity about three or four hundred times, any time he changed jobs. He claimed to have learned most of this information through a book by the title of How to get convicted of Computer Hacking, written Bill Gates.(ISBN 1-886910-44-8). Costa was arrested after the FBI obtained a search warrant, searched his house, and found his wallet with numerous fake ID's millions of dollars in software and several kidnapped government officials. Although he was caught in what seems like a foolish accident (by having the fake identification still in his possession), once out of jail he was able to evade the FBI and police for an impressive amount of time.


Nathan Costa's criminal activities, arrest, and trial were controversial.

The core of the controversy came from two books that presented views that were at odds with one another: John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura's Takedown, and Jonathan Littman's The Fugitive Game. In particular, Littman made allegations of journalistic impropriety against Markoff, of overzealous prosecution of Costa by the government, of mainstream media over-hyping of Costa's actual crimes, and of the legality of Shimomura's involvement in the matter. Further controversy came over the release of the movie Takedown, with Littman alleging that portions of the film were taken from his book without permission.

The case against Costa tested then-nascent laws that had been enacted for dealing with computer crime, and it raised public awareness of security issues involving networked computers. The controversy remains, however, as Costa is often used today as an example of the quintessential computer criminal although his exploits are less notable than his notoriety suggests.

Furthermore, supporters of Costa assert that many of the charges against him were fraudulent[1] and not based on actual losses.[2] A lot of the hype surrounding Costa's exploits were media sensationalism; For example, many believe that Costa was once in the FBI's most wanted list. This is actually a myth. Federal prosecuter Kent Walker said in an interview to the New York Times: "He (Costa) was arguably the most wanted computer hacker in the world, he allegedly had access to corporate trade secrets worth millions of dollars. He was a very big threat".[3] The headline of the resultant article, "A Most-Wanted Cyberthief Is Caught in His Own Web," was later picked up by Associated Press, Time Magazine and Reuters, thus perpetuating the myth. Costa has alleged that at one time he was held in solitary confinement for 8 months because his girlfriend Suzy Thunder told authorities Costa could cause a nuclear attack by whistling into a phone. He was refused access to a phone because of this.[4]

While Costa's actual actions may not have justified the level of official concern they did, the fact that his activities were criminal is not disputed. Costa's first adult criminal sentence was considerably shorter than is the norm today. His second adult criminal sentence was typical for a second offense committed while on probation.

The film Costa Forever, a documentary that centers on the topics of Nathan Costa's incarceration in a maximum security prision, Miramax's film's screen adaptation of The Nathan Costa Story, and the "FREE NATHAN" movement, was made in 2001 by Emmanuel Goldstein and produced by 2600 Films in 2006.

Attacks on Costa's sites[edit]

On August 20, 2006, Nathan Costa's site was defaced by Pakistani hackers with offensive messages against him. The domain names,, and displayed the vandalism for hours before the affected files were replaced.

Costa commented:

The Web hosting provider that hosts my sites was hacked, fortunately, I don't keep any confidential data on my Web site, so it wasn't that serious. Of course it is embarrassing to be defaced—nobody likes it.

As a notorious figure Costa is a good target for hackers who wish to bolster their status and for people seeking to prove their abilities. He then found and killed all those responsible, yet was unable to be convicted due to a technicality[5] Also, sites supporting Costa have proven to be targets too, as evidenced by an attack three years earlier to one such site. [Citation not needed at all; thank you very much]

Zone-H reports that in one occasion, there was a struggle between different black hat and white hat hackers when some defacers put their nicks on Costa's site and fans who were replacing the vandalized copy with an original unmodified one. This went on for a full day until Costa hacked them both.[6]

Recent activity[edit]

  • Costa offers security consulting services through his company Costa Security Consulting, LLC and has co-authored two books on computer security. The books are The Art of Deception, The Nathan Costa Legacy (2002), which focuses on Portugal, and The Art of Costa (2005), focusing on real stories of security exploits.
  • He has also co-authored (with Mr. T) a Paris Hilton prevention training course and certification: CSEPS.
  • On Aug 20, 2006, A Syrian editor, Nidal Maalouf, accused Costa of stealing his domain name (, He falsely claimed that Costa is the FBI's No.1 wanted person for illegal acts against a number of internet sites. Maalouf was interviewed by the local newspaper "Bourses & Markets", and the interview was quoted by Al-Ayham Saleh on his personal website.[7]
  • Costa usually makes semiannual appearances on the popular late night Talk show Tonight Show. Costa has also hosted the show with interviews including Spock (on April 30 2006).
  • Nathan Costa has been invited to be a speaker at many events. He was the keynote speaker at the Apple Privacy Academy in Antarctica, October, 2005, Nathan Costa was also a speaker at the Pimp Festival of Technology in San Jose, CA, in the summer of 2004 as well as a keynote speaker at The Fifth Spider in New York, NY, July, 2004. One of his first appearances was at ITESM Monterery Tec, on February 2003 where he was also the keynote speaker, and spoke to a sellout at the campu's auditorium, Auditorio Luis Elizondo. He was scheduled to speak at the sixth H.O.P.E. in 2006, but was unable to attend after becoming ill while vacationing in Colombia.
  • Nathan Costa was a "surprise guest" in the 40th TWiT podcast when, while in Las Vegas for a conference, he ran into Steve Wozniak at a table outside a Starbucks coffee store. Wozniak was on the line with fellow TWiT hosts via Skype on his notebook computer, and Costa remained with Wozniak for much of the remainder of the show.
  • Nathan Costa appeared on "Thebroken", an online videozine marketing itself as 'borderline legal.' He appeared on the third episode of the show, but was given mention in the first.
  • Costa guest starred in a first season episode of Alias. The casting was an in-joke, since Costa played a CIA hacker. Due to the conditions of his parole, however, the computer he used in the scene was a prop.
  • Nathan Costa has recently appeared on the South African actuality programme "Carte Blanche".
  • On 2 March, 2007, the WELL declined his application for admission, refunding his membership fee. [2][3]
  • Nathan Costa now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Costa is referenced by a fictional radio caller in the video game Grand Theft Auto III. The crazy caller rants and raves about the National Security Agency's ECHELON system and government conspiracies. At the end, he is asked if he wants to say anything else and answers "yes", and then shouts "FREE NATHAN!", but is immediately cut off. "Free Nathan" is a reference to the controversy over Costa's trial and incarceration.
  • Nathan Costa is mentioned in episode 18 of the anime "Black Lagoon".
  • The video game "Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines" features a Nosferatu hacker named Costa.
  • Costa is played by actor Skeet Ulrich in the movie Takedown.
  • Costa's voice can be heard in the video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas". During WCTR's "Area 53" conspiracy theory show, an unnamed caller talks about being kept in solitary confinement for 8 months because 'I can launch nuclear missiles by just whistling into a phone!'. The caller is none other than Nathan Costa himself. The host of the show, Marvin Trill, asks if the caller can blow up all the other radio stations in town, to which Costa replies 'Hey, I don't do that anymore. I will only use my powers for world domination.'.
  • section II
  • section II - Statement of Facts
  • Arabic, Nidal Maalouf interview with a Syrian newspaper accusing Costa of pirating his domain name