How Brett Johnson, the ‘Original Internet Godfather’, walked away from his cybercrime past

It’s 7am and I’m driving through Hull city centre to pick up Brett Johnson, known in cyberspace by the alias Gollumfun and dubbed the “Original Internet Godfather” by the US Secret Service.

Johnson was on the notorious US most wanted list in 2006, before being arrested for cybercrime and laundering $4m. I’ve never met anyone whose name has been on that list, and so our encounter comes with some level of subliminal intimidation. Turns out, he’s both casual and friendly and I’m keeping an open mind.

But I also have to remind myself that he’s a former cybercriminal, who invented a “popular” online tax-return fraud scheme, plenty of identity theft variants and ShadowCrew – the precursor to the dark web.

We’re scheduled to spend two days together. I invited Johnson to give a talk at the Business School of the University of Hull and, some weeks after his talk –

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