The guest keynote speakers at technology conferences can vary in quality, but Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) Canada (NYSE: HIT) made a smart choice by inviting Michael Calce, also known as Mafiaboy, to speak at their recent Information Forum event in Toronto.

Calce gained notoriety as a teenage hacker from Montreal, who became the subject of an RCMP/FBI manhunt after a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in 2000. This attack brought down the websites of major companies like CNN, Amazon, Dell, and Yahoo. At the forum, he recounted his youthful indiscretions and delivered a stern warning about the dangers of over-sharing in the information age.

Calce began his computing journey early, receiving his first white box PC at the age of six. He was engrossed by its capabilities, particularly playing games and storing data. His first programming venture was creating an application to track his hockey card collection, reflecting his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. By age nine, Calce was exploring the web, spurred by one of those ubiquitous AOL CDs offering 30 days of free service. Fascinated by AOL and the online interaction it facilitated, he didn't realize the trial was limited to 30 days.

Desperate to maintain access to this new world, Calce turned to social engineering. Using a discovered application, he posed as an AOL administrator, convincing users to provide their account information by claiming a power outage required it. To his surprise, he succeeded on his fourth attempt.

This marked the beginning of Calce's hacking career. His first significant encounter with another hacker occurred when he was "talking smack" in a chat room, leading to his temporary disconnection by a more skilled user. This incident sparked his interest in more advanced hacking techniques, propelling him deeper into the hacker subculture.

Transitioning from AOL to IRC chat rooms, Calce sought out cracked games, eventually joining an IRC channel that recruited hackers to use public high-speed networks, like those in schools, for distributing pirated software. He was 11 years old at the time and felt privileged to be given a chance to learn and participate.

“Back when I was hacking, the objective was just to hack something to say you'd hacked it,” Calce explained. “Today, everything is about monetary gain. Hackers have completely changed their psyche.”

After his IRC hacking group disbanded, Calce became a "mercenary" in ongoing IRC wars, focusing on denial-of-service attacks. With limited capabilities due to his Pentium 133 and dial-up connection, he decided to build a network of "slave" computers controlled by a master computer in early 2000.

Meta Description: Michael Calce, aka Mafiaboy, delivers a compelling keynote on hacking history and online security at HDS Canada's Information Forum in Toronto.

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