A fifteen year old managed to hack into a corporate system with sensitive customer data. At the moment, we are unsure if he was a script kid (someone who uses pre-made scripts to exploit weaknesses in systems) or if he found some ingenious new exploit. It’s likely however, as it often is, that he was unsure of what exactly he was doing.
This is an interesting story. It’s a good story, but not the first time such a thing has happened. Will charges be leveled against him? Will he end up employed in the industry, his interest fostered? What does a humane society do?
Screw that. HACKER KID LIKES VIDEO GAMES. Thank you British press.
Scanning across the newspapers this morning, one can detect quite a few rather unpleasant themes. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a trend in attacking video games at the moment as a means click bait, so I will not link to the articles in question.
The worst, predictably, is the Daily Mail. They make sure to mention he’s a fan of violent games, throwing themselves into the correlation fallacy (for example, did you know nearly all murderers in Ireland used a toilet less than 24 hours before they killed? The logic used here implies it’s the toilet’s fault). I also wonder if he’s a fan of non-violent games too. Simply put, what has gaming got to do with this story, at all?
They make sure to mention he’s a child of a single parent family, like that’s unusual these days, or something to be ashamed of. They make sure to mention he grew up in a sectarian, unionist dominated area of Northern Ireland – might as well throw the whole terrorist angle in too while we’re at it.
Most uncomfortably, they make sure to point out that he spent most of his time in his room with his computer. They make sure to make him out to be something of a loner, committing the horrific sin of not wanting to play football with others. How dare this child not conform exactly to the social norms of the world. How dare he enjoy engaging in flights of fancy. How dare he explore pastimes that inspire him.
I’ve already talked about that; so let’s get to the new stuff. What are the papers ignoring by fixating on the apparently mind blowing fact that a 15 year old boy likes videogames?
Firstly, TalkTalk hold customer information. They provide an important service. Where was their security? Is their data at risk? How could this happen? It looks like an SQL injection to bring service down at the time of writing, and no information was taken, but surely this is the most important headline here? How does a 15 year old do this? There are monumental data protection issues at play here.
Secondly, is society failing our children? A child, obviously inspired by the world of technology around him, finds a way to reach out that requires a certain level of understanding that should be beyond him, and the reports are that he’s a loner, somewhat shunned.
Is there a coder dojo nearby? Something to expand his horizons? How many more like him are out there, bored, playing around with scripts and hacks? Has he learned to program? Were there any teachers to notice his interest and explore it with him? He was suspended from school, according to the Mail, but clearly he wants to learn something – systems do not hack themselves. Something went wrong here. Instead of judging him and his family, how about we turn the mirror on ourselves and wonder how many children are we letting down?
Do we prosecute this child? What happens to him now? In fact, TalkTalk should be quite thankful the person who exposed their weakness was a harmless child and not a gang of organised criminals. They can shore up the weakness and no harm done. There’s even huge PR potential in them perhaps sending him to college or something similar.
Some people might think I am being too kind to this child, but even so, the quality of journalism on this topic is bottom drawer. ‘Child Plays Videogames’ is not a headline worthy of the front page. ‘Unnoticed Child Hacks Secure System’ most certainly is however.
Dear old media, in case you’re wondering why people are leaving in droves, this is why.
[Image: The Daily Mail]