Is it that hackers are getting younger or just that hacking is getting easier? There are two currently famous cases of young hackers who have been seen in the news in recent months, the first is a twelve year old Canadian, and the second is a fifteen year old Canadian. Two young Canadian boys but very different in terms of their hacking, with only a difference of thirteen years between their crimes.
The twelve year old boy pleaded guilty to a variety of hacking charges in Quebe in late October, and was sentenced in November, while he could be the youngest convicted hacker in the world his crimes themselves were not all that impressive. Rather than an actual hacker this young man is what is known as a ‘script kiddie’, using software and resources found online to perform his ‘hacks’ rather than his own skills. Among the charges to which he has pleaded guilty are; participation in DDoS attacks, copypasta website vandalism, exploitation of security holes to access data and posting stolen information online.
It is also known that the twelve-year-old shared this ‘hacking’ information with others, including a warning telling people that while it was easy to hack it was also easy to get caught, so you shouldn’t do more than you can hide; perhaps he could have benefited from taking his own advice. What I find most remarkable about this boy is that it appears the famous internet group Anonymous encouraged him to participate in the attacks by offering him pirated video games in exchange for the efforts. It could be considered rather impressive that a twelve-year-old could get into contact with members of Anonymous, a group known to be found only in the deepest, darkest places of the internet, recruited as a ‘hacker’ and charged with a variety of ‘hacking’ offences and yet is unable to pirate his own video games.
The second, who is now in his late twenties but was just fifteen at the time of his attack could be considered a much more impressive hacker. At fifteen years old the young man with the alias ‘Mafiaboy’ used his hacking to take down eTrade, eBay and Yahoo!, after eight months in a young offenders rehab facility and another eight months on probation the young man started to receive a range of job offers from cyber security service providers. This is one of the few business routes available for hackers that make use of their skills, finding and covering holes in security systems to prevent other hackers from being able to exploit them. It is very unlikely that there will be any such offers waiting for the twelve-year-old when his sentence is over.
‘Script Kiddies’ are commonplace today and there are entire legions of them, youngsters that tinker with tools and ‘hacking’ without much real understanding of what they are doing or the sort of trouble it could get them into. Much of what they do is relatively harmless and for most of them the closest they get to ‘hacking’ is participation in a DDoS attack. For youngsters today however this is considered to be far too much of a positive thing, a badge of the ‘cool kids’ is that they hacked something. However, law enforcement around the world is eager to teach youths a lesson when it comes to hacking crimes.
One of the problems with Script Kiddies that is most pressing is that most are, or aspire to be, blackhat hackers, although they might not be creating much damage the fact that they are trying to can be greatly problematic and as the tools and number of script kiddie resources increase there are a number of potential threats that could emerge as a result of this. The number of websites reporting service problems as a result of hacking and attacks is on the rise as online vigilantes attempt to ‘make a point’ in regards to subjects most are too young to fully understand.
So – what is it? Smarter hackers? Easier hacking? Given the evidence I’m not even sure I would want to acknowledge much of what is happening as hacking. However, while there are obvious exceptions I would say that in most cases hacking is just too easy for youngsters to do, thanks to the range of tools and resources available free and easily online. Children know how to search for things too easily now, parent’s don’t know enough about what their children can do with the internet to know when to stop them; the problem is that it is too easy for youths to become one of these ‘script kiddies’ and they accomplish too much approval in their social circles as a result of this to realistically discourage them from it.
Script Kiddie; usually a teenager, someone who wants the power of a hacker without the discipline and ignores the hacker ideals. They rely on premade programs and files called scripts to conduct their hacking and don’t bother learning how they work. These hackers don’t really have any skills of their own, they are just using tools that do the hacking for them.
Blackhat; a hacker or cracker who conducts their hacking or cracking with malicious. Any use of the internet with malicious intentions. Blackhat hackers are often those who destroy and damage for the sake of doing so, rather than those who do so to find, identify and resolve security holes (whitehat) or those who are doing so to act on a cause. These are hackers that destroy for fun rather than for their jobs or beliefs.
Kate Critchlow is a freelance writer with a passionate interest for technology covering everything from web development to security services.