16-Year Old Boys Make Good Hackers, Security Experts
Article by George Norman
On 26 Mar 2009
This is the story of two teenage boys, one 16-year old ethical hacker Sahil Khan from India, and one 16-year old Owen Thor Walker a.k.a “Akill” botmaster and hacker from New Zealand, who are living proof that age has little importance when it comes to computer security. I thought it a good idea to present the story of the two teenage boys as it is quite interesting – keep reading and you will see why.

Starting with Sahil Khan, it must be said that he comes from a lower middle class Muslim family from the Kasab Pura area in Sadar Bazar, Delhi. His father runs a clinic in Mumbai and his mother is a home maker. Nothing too out of the ordinary so far, but here is the kicker: at the young age of 16 he is already an expert in computers, despite the fact that nobody taught him, he schooled himself in the matter. He is in fact the youngest ethical hacker in India.

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He never took a computer class, and despite this he was able to deliver a properly good speech about computers in front of Harun Yousuf, the Delhi Minister of Food and Civil Supplies, earning him an “this boy will do wonders in the world of computers” appraisal – in the second grade, at 8-years of age. By his 13th birthday he already published his own hacking book called “Hackers and Crackers” courtesy of publisher ABC Press, New Delhi and distributed by Kapil Sibbal, the Indian Union Minister of Science and Technology. Since then he published a second “Hackers and Crackers” edition and released “The Anatomy of Computer Viruses”.

According to Sahil Khan, the general public should be made aware of the fact that they generally misinterpret the meaning of the term “hacker”. “The term 'hacker' should refer to a computer professional who is [an] expert in a kind of computer security,” said Khan, noting that cyber criminals should be called “crackers”, not “hackers.” He also added that ethical hackers or white hackers make better security experts because they can “effectively check the moves of crackers (better) than any other security expert.”

Speaking of crackers, I think that 16-year old Owen Thor Walker from New Zealand fits the description perfectly. At his young age he already used his programming skills to write malware that would steal bank account info and controlled a botnet of more than 1,000,000 zombie computer s. Akill (his online handle) has been arrested, but the New Zealand authorities did not jail him – instead they ordered him to pay fines totaling $11,000. Recent reports have it that New Zealand's second-largest telecommunications firm TelstraClear has offered Akill a job – as in they hired him to conduct security seminars and assist in TelstraClear ad campaigns.

We here at FindMySoft have long talked about the issue of malicious hackers and crackers that are brought to justice and we’ve come to this conclusion: if you manage to find someone that is exceptionally skilled, then try to bring him to your side. The hacker is obviously a security expert, and you would not do wrong by hiring him.

Graham Cluley brings up one interesting point of view: “You have to raise an eyebrow at this point, and ask if there is possibly an inconsistency at play in the way in which different countries are punishing their cybercriminals. After all, British hacker Gary McKinnon is facing extradition after breaking into NASA and Pentagon computers shortly after 9/11 in his hunt for evidence of UFOs. My guess is that McKinnon would be extremely happy to receive a fine, and get a job advising people about security - but no-one seems to be offering him that yet. And regardless of whether McKinnon and Walker are being treated differently by the authorities, is anyone else concerned that some hackers might be using their notoriety a fast track to employment in the IT industry? Is that a good message to be sent out to young people?”

UPDATE: Check out an article depicting the exact opposite situation - Dumbest Criminals Ever: iPhone Thief, DOD Hacker



Tags: Hacker, Cracker, Sahil Khan, Owen Thor Walker, Akill
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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