Weird History
1.3k voters

12 Times Someone Actually Broke Into An Impregnable Place

February 12, 2021 7.5k votes 1.3k voters 61.9k views12 items

List RulesVote up the most inventive ways people broke into places with high security.

Throughout history, quite a few bandits have tiptoed past guards, scaled high walls, and made their way into seemingly inaccessible places. These famous break-ins in heavily fortified locales lead to an important question: Are these venues as safe and secure as they claim?

Tricksters and heisters manage to sneak into impenetrable spaces for many reasons - whether it's to abscond in the night with valuable pieces of art, to intrude upon Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace after a night of heavy drinking, or to give NASA scientists a run for their money. That being said, some of these cases are much more clever than others. Read on below to vote up the most artful and intelligent examples of someone actually breaching unassailable buildings, networks, or even military planes.

  • 1

    A Sewage Worker Broke Into The Bank Of England Gold Vault Just To Tell The Directors It Was Possible

    In 1836, high-ranking officials at the flagship Bank of England branch on London’s Threadneedle Street received a bizarre note from an anonymous source. The unnamed person wrote that they knew of a way to gain direct access to the bank's gold vault without alarming security. Scoffing at the notion that anyone could get into the vault, the staff laughed it off.

    When they received a second note from the same source offering to meet them inside the vault in order to prove their case, they reluctantly agreed - more out of curiosity than fear. In the vault, the Bank of England officials were shocked when a man popped up from beneath the floorboards. It turns out he was a sewage worker who discovered an old pipe that led right into the vault. The good samaritan was supposedly rewarded with 800 pounds for pointing out the security breach, and the Bank of England quickly repaired the problem.

  • 2

    Men Dug A 600-Meter Tunnel To Break Into Brazil's Central Bank

    Like something out of the movies, a group of thieves spent three months planning and executing the biggest bank raid in Brazil's history. The group, composed of a few dozen heisters, set up a fake gardening business in a small home a block away from Brazil's Central Bank in Fortaleza, even purchasing a white van with a bogus company logo on the side. From there, the perps constructed an underground tunnel that stretched from one of the bedrooms in their rental to the Central Bank's secured vault.

    The crooks reinforced their tunnel with plastic and wood, installed electric lights, and created a ventilation system. On Saturday, August 6, 2005, they snatched over $160 million out of the vault. The theft wasn't discovered until the following Monday morning, by which point the crooks were long gone. Since then, only eight people have been taken into custody and $20 million of the missing cash retrieved.

  • 3

    Posing As Guards, Art Thieves Broke Into Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum And Stole $500 Million Worth Of Art

    The largest property theft in the world remains unsolved 30 years later. Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum houses some of the world's most prized and treasured works of art. On the evening of March 18, 1990, two men swiped $500 million dollars worth of art from the museum, including works from Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Degas.

    Dressed as police officers, the crooks made their way into the museum by telling security guards they were responding to a disturbance call. Breaking protocol, the fake officers were allowed to enter through the employee entrance, where they handcuffed, bound, and gagged the guards on duty. 81 minutes later, the perps left with 13 works, none of which have resurfaced since. To this day, the museum offers a $10 million reward for anyone who can provide information that will lead to the art's retrieval.

  • 4

    A 15-Year-Old Hacked Into NASA's Systems And Caused A 21-Day Shut Down

    Miami teen Jonathan James found a backdoor into NASA's server in 1999 after using a hacking tool called a "sniffer" to unlock hundreds of messages, usernames, and passwords. From there, the 15-year-old accessed staff computers at the Marshall Space Flight Center and downloaded $1.7 million dollars worth of NASA proprietary software. The breach caused NASA to shut down its system for 21 days.

    James, who became the first juvenile to receive a federal sentence for computer hacking, also compromised Department of Defense networks. His reason? Just to see how far he could get. "The government didn't take too many measures for security on most of their computers. They lack some serious computer security," James said at the time.