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Celestia Founder Mustafa Al-Bassam Shares Insights from His Early Hacking Experiences

Mustafa Al-Bassam, the co-founder and CEO of Celestia, has recently provided insights into his early experiences as a hacker, including notable breaches that targeted organizations such as the CIA and the Westboro Baptist Church.

In a recent publication by Al-Bassam, he candidly revealed his hacking background, which commenced during his adolescence as a member of the hacker collective known as LulzSec. During this period, he participated in a range of cyber offensives, including a significant Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) assault on the CIA’s website.

Hacking Live on Radio Show

Al-Bassam expressed, “My most memorable exploit wasn’t the CIA incident (which wasn’t even a hack but a DDoS attack),” and went on to describe the hack of the Westboro Baptist Church, which took place during a live radio broadcast.

He shared a video from 13 years ago that documented the intense encounter between him and Shirley Phelps-Roper from the Westboro Baptist Church.

The Church had been receiving threatening letters, assuming that Al-Bassam’s hacktivist group was behind the attacks. However, Al-Bassam clarified that his group had no intention of engaging in a conflict with the Church, and another hacktivist known as Jester was responsible for taking down their websites.

During the heated exchange, Phelps-Roper taunted and provoked Al-Bassam, even suggesting that “the internet was invented for the Westboro Baptist Church to spread its message.”

In the latter part of the radio show, Al-Bassam revealed that amid their ongoing debate, he had successfully breached the Church’s website and published a statement, as their initial attempts at peace had not been well-received.

A Hacker’s Guide to Cybersecurity

LulzSec gained notoriety for their hacking activities, which targeted several prominent organizations, including the CIA, the U.K. Serious Organised Crime Agency, Fox, and Sony.

At the age of 18, just before his A-level exams, Mustafa Al-Bassam, formerly known as tFlow in online circles, received a 20-month suspended sentence and was required to complete 300 hours of unpaid community service.

In a 2016 interview with The Daily Mail, Al-Bassam shared his perspective on the white hat versus black hat dichotomy in the hacking world, stating, “I think the white hat versus black hat label is an unhelpful oversimplification of an activity that encompasses a wide range of human motivations. The ethics of hacking are not simply black or white; they involve a spectrum of considerations, much like any other human activity in life.”

He also pointed out vulnerabilities in the online security practices of most UK banks, emphasizing that many fail to implement HTTPS encryption properly on their websites. Al-Bassam went further to assert that he believed the entire credit and debit card system was fundamentally flawed.

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