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09/05/2022

I stole people's identities for a living. Here are the top 4 things everyone should do to lower their risk of getting hacked by cybercriminals.

Business Insider

This as-told-to-essay is based on a conversation with Brett Shannon Johnson, a former cybercriminal turned cybersecurity expert. Insider confirmed Johnson's criminal history using court documents and contemporaneous news reports. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

I'm a reformed cybercriminal who used to steal identities and commit credit card fraud, but I've thankfully turned my life around. 

I helped build and run an early version of the "darknet," which provided a trust mechanism that many criminals continue to use to this day. In October 2004, the Secret Service arrested 33 people associated with my network. They picked me up four months later and offered me a job as an informant. I'm the idiot who continued to break the law for the next 10 months while working for the Secret Service until they found out about it. 

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