Brett Johnson - From Cybercriminal To Security Expert

Discover the story of Brett Johnson, once dubbed the “Original Internet Godfather,” who went from a notorious cybercriminal to a respected security consultant.

Brett Johnson - From Cybercriminal To Security Expert

Brett Johnson, former US most wanted cybercriminal turned security consultant and public speaker. He is best known for his notorious activities as “The Original Internet Godfather,” where he specialised in identity theft and financial fraud. After being captured and serving time in prison, Johnson turned his life around and started working with the FBI to help them catch cybercriminals.

Since then, Johnson has become a leading expert in cybersecurity and identity theft, advising companies and organisations on protecting themselves from cyber attacks. He has been featured in numerous media outlets, including CNN, the New York Times, and the BBC, and has given keynote speeches at conferences worldwide.

In addition to his consulting work, Johnson is an advocate for cybercrime victims and a mentor for at-risk youth. He founded the organisation AnglerPhish to educate the public on the dangers of cybercrime and how to protect themselves. He also volunteers as a mentor for the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force.

Despite his criminal past, Johnson has proven to be a valuable asset in the fight against cybercrime. He has been praised for his unique insight into the criminal mind and his ability to help law enforcement agencies understand and track cybercriminals. Johnson’s expertise has been so valuable that he has been nicknamed “The Secret Weapon” by the FBI.

In his public speaking engagements, Johnson shares his story and insights into the cybercrime world, highlighting the importance of protecting personal information and the dangers of falling victim to identity theft. He also offers practical advice on staying safe online, from using strong passwords to being wary of suspicious emails and websites.

Becoming the "Original Internet Godfather"

Johnson earned the nickname “The Original Internet Godfather” due to his early involvement in online crime and leadership in a notorious cybercrime group called ShadowCrew. ShadowCrew was a marketplace for stolen credit card numbers and other illegal goods and services. Johnson was one of the founders and administrators of the group, which the FBI shut down in 2004.

The Rise and Fall of ShadowCrew

The leader of ShadowCrew, Brett Johnson, organised a cybercrime group that revolutionised how criminals engaged in credit card theft, phishing, account takeover, tax return identity theft, and other related activities. Before ShadowCrew’s emergence, engaging in cybercrime was limited to IRC chat sessions that lacked any actual mechanism for trust and verification of fellow criminals.

ShadowCrew was one of three significant websites that provided a forum-type structure for communication and networking among criminals in different time zones. These sites, including ShadowCrew, CarderPlanet, and Counterfeit Library, provided a trust mechanism that allowed criminals to determine the skill level of others and whether they could be trusted. They also offered a way for cybercriminals to network and collaborate on criminal activities by leveraging each other’s areas of expertise.

Before these sites emerged, cybercriminals had to handle all aspects of cybercrime, including gathering data, committing the crime, and cashing out. This was a challenge for many, as only some individuals could do all three things effectively. The emergence of these sites allowed criminals to collaborate with others who possessed the skills they lacked.

CarderPlanet, one of the three sites mentioned, was run by a Ukrainian named Dmitry Golubov, who used the screen name Script. He has since become a member of parliament and ran for mayor in Odessa.

ShadowCrew Made The Forbes Front Cover

ShadowCrew gained notoriety and made the front cover of Forbes in August 2004. However, in October 2004, the United States Secret Service arrested 33 individuals from six different countries in just six hours. The only person publicly known to have evaded arrest at that time ran Counterfeit Library and ShadowCrew.

This individual, who later became an informant for the Secret Service, was arrested on February 8th, 2005. Despite being given a job by the Secret Service, he continued to engage in criminal activities from within the agency for ten months before being caught. Afterwards, he went on a crime spree, stealing $600,000 in about four months before waking up one day to find his name on the US Most Wanted list next to an article about, which was run by a friend of his named Max Butler.

Turning His Life Around

After his arrest and conviction, Brett Johnson, former US most wanted, decided to turn his life around and began working with law enforcement to help combat cybercrime. He has since become a consultant and public speaker, using his knowledge of cybercrime to educate others about the dangers of online fraud and how to protect themselves from it. He has also provided valuable insights to law enforcement agencies to help them better understand cybercriminals’ criminal mindset and tactics.

Working With the U.S. Secret Service

Brett Johnson has a unique story regarding his criminal past and eventual redemption. After years of engaging in cybercrime, Johnson was caught by the United States Secret Service in 2005. But instead of serving time in jail, he was given a job as a consultant to help the agency combat cybercrime.

While working with the Secret Service, Brett Johnson provided valuable insights into the world of cybercrime and helped the agency track down other criminals. He also developed a reputation as an expert in the field, speaking at conferences and training law enforcement officials on how to combat cybercrime.

One of Johnson’s significant contributions during his time with the Secret Service was his role in the takedown of the online criminal marketplace ShadowCrew. Johnson had previously been involved with the site, but after being caught and given a second chance by the Secret Service, he used his knowledge to help shut it down.

Johnson’s work with the Secret Service also led to creation of the agency’s Electronic Crimes Task Forces, designed to coordinate efforts to combat cybercrime locally. Johnson was a consultant for these task forces, providing training and expertise to law enforcement officials nationwide.

Johnson’s criminal past continued to haunt him despite his success working with law enforcement. In 2006, he was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison for his role in a credit card fraud scheme. However, Johnson continued to work with the Secret Service while in prison, providing insights and advice on ongoing cases.

Speaking Out Against Cybercrime

Brett Johnson has made it his mission to help others avoid the mistakes he made. In addition to sharing his experiences with law enforcement agencies and security professionals, he has become a sought-after speaker and consultant for businesses seeking to protect themselves against cybercrime.

One of the ways Johnson is working to combat cybercrime is by speaking out against it. He is a passionate advocate for raising awareness about the dangers of cybercrime and educating the public on how to protect themselves. He believes that everyone has a responsibility to take steps to protect their digital assets and that businesses, in particular, must safeguard their customers’ data.

Johnson’s efforts to raise awareness about cybercrime have included speaking engagements at industry conferences and events and media appearances on major news networks such as CNN, NBC, and Fox News. He has also been featured in several publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes.

In his talks, Johnson shares his personal story of how he became involved in cybercrime and its devastating impact on his life. He also discusses the various types of cybercrime and cybercriminals’ methods of targeting individuals and businesses. By providing concrete examples and real-world scenarios, he helps his audience understand the seriousness of the threat and the importance of taking action to protect themselves.

However, Johnson’s message is not just one of caution; he also emphasises the positive steps individuals and businesses can take to protect themselves against cybercrime. This includes everything from using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication to implementing advanced security measures such as intrusion detection systems and threat intelligence platforms.


Brett Johnson’s life story is a cautionary tale for anyone tempted to engage in cybercrime. After a long and prolific criminal career, he eventually found himself behind bars and facing the harsh reality of his actions. But Johnson didn’t let his past define him. Instead, he used his knowledge and experience to help law enforcement and private companies fight back against cybercrime.

Through his work with the U.S. Secret Service and public speaking engagements, Johnson has made it his mission to educate others about the dangers of cybercrime and the importance of taking proactive steps to protect against it. He has shared his story and expertise with audiences worldwide, and his insights have helped countless organisations better understand the threats they face and how to defend against them.

Johnson’s experience also highlights the need for greater collaboration between law enforcement and private industry. These two groups can more effectively share information, identify emerging threats, and develop new strategies for combating cybercrime by working together. Johnson has played a vital role in building these partnerships, and his work has paved the way for many others to follow in his footsteps.

Ultimately, Brett Johnson’s story shows that even the most seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be overcome with the right mindset and a commitment to positive change. He has demonstrated that it is possible to turn one’s life around, no matter how difficult or challenging the circumstances. Through his example, Johnson has inspired others to pursue their paths of redemption and to make a positive difference in the world.

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