Last week, an alleged hacker behind the breaches at Rockstar Games and Uber was arrested in London. He was just 17 years old. It comes two years after the infamous 2020 Twitter hacks, which saw scammers gain access to verified accounts like that belonging to Elon Musk to promote a bitcoin scam. The youngest alleged perpetrator was 16 years old.
The news comes as cybersecurity is increasingly becoming an issue businesses must take seriously. However, as companies pay big bucks to beef up their digital defences, it may discourage them to find out that some of the largest hacks of this century have been carried out by teenagers.
The September breach forced Uber to immediately turn off many of its internal systems, including its Slack and Google Cloud Platform.
Rockstar’s infiltration led to over 90 videos of pre-alpha Grand Theft Auto 6 (GTA 6) footage circulated online in one of the biggest video game leaks in history.
Police arrested a 17-year-old in Oxfordshire on September 22, just under a week after the secret footage of the developing game was put in front of millions.
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Hackers are likely to be teens or in their early 20s
Experts say it makes sense why some of the biggest hacks in recent memory have been carried out by young people.
James Pickard, head of security testing at data protection firm IT Governance, pointed to the “masses of resources online” which make it easy for teenagers with a lot of time to use.
Pickard told Verdict: “There are masses of resources online; labs, guides and free tools, which are easily discoverable.
“This makes it easier to pick up and learn how to hack, where people can watch and repeat, rather than reading and studying about the subject, which is how it used to be.”
Cyril Noel-Tagoe, principal security researcher at bot-detection company Netacea, agrees with this point, telling Verdict: “Digital skills are second nature to many of today’s teenagers and young adults, having grown up with internet technologies.”
“A lot of the tooling required for hacking is easily accessible and young people have plenty of free time they can dedicate to exploring technologies, bypassing defences and learning new skills.”
According to Noel-Tagoe, their research indicates that most members on hacker forums are in their teens or twenties.
“Many young people are introduced to these forums when looking for cheats for their favourite games and start by visiting gaming-related subforums.”