Bryce Case Jr. wakes up in a Colorado Springs hospital bed. There’s a deep wound on his neck. He has barely survived an attack after intervening in a knife fight behind a Best Buy store to save a friend involved in a petty disagreement. The cut was just three millimeters from his carotid artery.
This is a glimpse of why others call him YTCracker, or “The Original Digital Gangster.” He’s more than just a hacker.
The name YTCracker comes from “Yours Truly,” a character from the Neal Stephenson cyberpunk novel, “Snow Crash,” and the term “Cracker” which refers to a person who breaks into computer systems.
Case describes himself as a former black hat, a hacker who takes part in malicious activity on computer systems for personal gain or amusement. He started on AOL from 1998 to 2001 and was later known for infiltrating and defacing government websites like NASA. But he is now a white hat, one who defends and protects computer systems. He is a pioneer of the nerdcore music genre as a musician with a discography that includes more than 20 album releases.
“I know Bryce is a great entertainer who actually knows the computer science behind the lyrics he raps about,” said James Ball, a principal cyber security engineer at T-Mobile.
Case said, “I think if I had grown up in an era where bug bounties existed, I probably wouldn’t have done a bunch of illegal things.” He adds, “It was like web graffiti.”
He was born in 1982 in La Mirada, California to a stay-at-home mom who later worked as a lunch lady in the public school system and a father who was an electrical engineer. He learned to read at age two.
From 1996 to 1998, he was an operator of bulletin board systems, the precursor to the modern internet. He was a distributor for the hacker group Cult of the Dead Cow (COTDC) which, among other things, made tools for hackers and was used by what people in the trade call “script kiddies” (inexperienced users) to use for unauthorized and malicious purposes.
Later, in 2003, his first big show was with Xzibit at an interNEXT Expo convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the leading B2B tech conference for the online adult entertainment industry.
“At that time business was booming,” said Case. “It was the wild west of the internet. It was crazy, the parties were crazy, the money throwing around was crazy.”
He was featured in the 2008 documentaries “Nerdcore for Life” and “Nerdcore Rising.” These documentaries chronicled the emergence of a new music form derived from the life of nerd culture.
From 2008 to 2015, Case founded the affiliate marketing networks GangsterDollars, Campets and NerdLifeMedia. These networks pay commissions for the sale of products and services. They are popular among marketers who have the talent to reach people from every corner of the internet.
YTCracker, in particular, was known as a talented spammer, even publishing songs like “Life is an Inbox” and “Spammer’s Paradise,” which talk of his leadership in the spam group Spamtec.
“He’s always willing to help and collaborate with the cyber community,” said Alexander Heid, fellow at Security Scorecard, a cybersecurity firm based in New York. “He’ll even introduce you to industry luminaries. He always wants to see people succeed, even if it doesn’t involve himself. He’s very selfless in that way.”
He worked for Grindr in the late 2010s as the chief security officer for their dating platform. He ensured that countries where homosexuality was illegal had access and protection features to ensure the safety of those participating.
In 2018, the domain registration system of Craigslist was hijacked to redirect to digitalgangster.com, which is a forum website that YTCracker owns. When people tried to go to Craigslist, they were sent to digitalgangster.com instead. Members of this forum were implicated in many hacks including the “Twitter hack of Barack Obama and others in 2009.”
According to technology news website Slashgear in 2019: “’15 years to the day have passed since NASA took a knee to my hacking of the gibson,” said YTCracker. ’Hack the gibson’ is a hacker term from the movie Hackers that implies a difficult hack. He also said that Neals must be taught in schools as a core requirement, referring to his album ‘Introducing Neals.’ He added that ‘the internet will flow with the virtual blood of many websites until Neals is taught in schools as a core requirement’.”
He is head of product and application security at Ring, where he has worked since 2020. Amazon owns Ring and his position is critical to their security posture. He applies everything he’s learned as a cybersecurity specialist to ensure that all systems are bulletproof and immune to infiltration and exploitation.
When asked about his other hobbies, he said, “I’m a big math nerd.” Also, “I learned to program as a kid in Borland C++ and Assembly.” Assembly language is the computer’s instruction set at the lowest level. When programming Assembly, Case challenges himself to “program with the least amount of instructions.”
What’s next for Case follows from his recent collaboration with Deadmau5, catapulting him further into the EDM scene as a respected and established artist with the song “Antisec,” released in Jan. 2023. These are the opening lyrics:
“I’m the de facto
Leader of a movement
Screaming, “Hack the planet” back in ’99
Hacktivism in its prime”