“It’s a UNIX System! I Know this” said Jurassic Park’s youngster Lex Murphy as she hacked the dinosaur theme park’s security to stave off an imminent attack from two ‘clever girl’ raptors.
How we all guffawed at the preposterous notion of a child hacker back in 1993 (never mind cloned dinosaurs that can open doors).
Except, if we fast forward 22 years the world’s greatest movie set in a dinosaur theme park seems positively prophetic in its depiction of children hacking seemingly complex computer networks in a matter of minutes.
That’s because today we issued a cracking little idea revealing how public Wi-Fi networks, which we willingly access every day in our millions, are so unsecure that a normal seven year-old child can hack them in less than 11 minutes.
Hacking, it would seem, is quite literally child’s play.
In the experiment, which we orchestrated for our VPN client Hide My Ass! primary schooler Betsy Davies managed to hack a willing participant’s laptop while they were connected to a purpose-made open Wi-Fi network – designed to replicate those found in a myriad of cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants, airports, gyms and public places up and down the country.
The simulated experiment was overseen by professional Ethical Hacker, Marcus Dempsey, normally hired by companies to check the robustness of their network systems. Betsy used nothing beyond hacking instructions freely available via an online search. It took ther just 10 minutes and 54 seconds to learn how to set up a rogue access point – frequently used by attackers to activate what is known as a “man in the middle” attack, and begin eavesdropping on (or “sniffing”) traffic.
The warning was clear: if a primary school child, with basic computer skills, can hack a Wi-Fi hotspot, just imagine the chaos a professional criminal hacker could wreak in a cafe where dozens of people are using Wi-Fi to shop, bank and browse online while they enjoy a flat white.
The story of the seven-year-old hacker was a coverage triumph, substantially reported in the Mail Online, Metro, Times, USA Today, ITV.com – and rounded off with a lovely live interview on ITV News with Betsy and Hide My Ass! COO Danvers Baillieu.