Child Hackers Run Amok in Cyberspace Madness

Posted by Chris Selby-Rickards on 08-Feb-2013 18:50:51

As anyone who has a kid knows, the little blighters are more adept when it comes to technology than we are. And it’s always been the same. Technology is generational and even now I score little victories when my late-70s mother makes advances with her Freeview box (“I’ve watched Borgen, the subtitles really help”) or my dad manages to respond to a phishing email or internet scam (“I’ve sent off a cheque for £5 to enter the Spanish lottery…”). At least they’re making progress.

It’s just as frustrating for my 5-year-old when his old man lags behind him on Wii Party mini games or Wii Sports bowling. Young minds are naturally in the learning and growing stage and buttons, flashing lights and apps are all just extensions of the toys and games that Santa brings them every year.

Is it any surprise, then, that hackers and proponents of malware are getting younger every day. A survey done by anti-virus company AVG found that gamers as young as 11 were writing programs to steal virtual money from accounts on popular game sites like Rune Scape, which has over 200 million players worldwide.

Codes used were considered amateurish because the juvenile writer had left their contact details traceable – something that your professional hacker just wouldn’t do – but you’ve got to admire the little scamps for getting it done in the first place. Now that computer code writing is taught in schools, and the Raspberry Pi is available throughout the world specifically for children to learn the joys of programming, grown-ups will also need to become extra vigilant to make sure that the little brats don’t take over the world like they think it was theirs in the first place. And having an annual industry event like Defcon Kids where under-16s can learn to become ‘good-guy hackers’ would just be crazy, right? Only in America...

This brings into sharp focus the need for top quality anti-virus protection and also for sensible information security policies at home and in the office. Minor inconveniences like ‘don’t give your children your credit card details’ need to sit alongside advice on password security and, especially in the workplace, encryption of sensitive data when emailing or saving on remote devices such as USB sticks.

Password Reminder

According to a survey conducted by Joseph Bonneau, a computer scientist at the University of Cambridge, over 55s are better at picking passwords than their simple, wide-eyed, trusting, naïve fools of teenage equivalents and, without resorting to cheap national stereotypes, it’s better to be German or Korean-speaking when making them up.

For SME companies with information security issues but that don’t have a huge internal communications budget, a recently released comedy video series gets the perils and pitfalls of ‘info sec’ nicely in perspective. Twist and Shout’s Restricted Intelligence is the sitcom-style adventures of a bunch of hapless office workers who attempt to keep their data protected with varying hysterical results.

Hackers will always be one step ahead of the security guys, but we need to help ourselves by putting the available software and common-sense practices in place and use them. And remember that SpecTronics offer a virus and Trojan removal service which can clean your PC or network up and remove any of those nasties that an 11-year-old Canadian boy might have left you.

Image credit: timsamoff

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