Young hackers are able to cause havoc using off-the-shelf scripts to attack IT networks. And as we become more connected, so the dangers increase.
Script Kiddies - or Skiddies - is the term used by internet security professionals to describe young hackers who use ready-to-run programmes to attack computer networks.
Although they don't have the skills of their more experienced counterparts, the ease with which they can launch attacks makes them a real threat to internet security.
Taking over WhatsApp
"These kids that are hackers today, they really do in the truest sense, have the ability to make or break our world," says Alexander Urbelis, Cybersecurity Lawyer, Crowell & Moring LLP. "And we have to make absolutely sure that we are both nurturing them and nourishing them in the right way."
One Skiddy explains, anonymously, how he got started: "My way of getting into hacking was very different from the normal way, which is experiment with cheats and then getting into hacking. I was about 12 years old and basically what happened was that one day a friend online who I chatted with was like 'I found a really interesting little program and I want to try out'. He put my telephone number into this account and he was able to take over my whole WhatsApp, I mean, completely take over my WhatsApp account. He was able to write messages to all of my friends, say all this stupid stuff. It's a technique where you’re able to completely take over and control an account that's not yours. I was like, How have you managed to do this? And he said, he couldn't tell me, that it had to do with software he's got. So from that day onwards, I started to get interested in hacking."
The Empathy Gap
The attraction of hacking is often simply a desire to have fun, says Dr Kelli Dunlap, Clinical Psychologist and Game Designer: "When kids are engaging in hacking behaviour. There is a little bit of an empathy gap here and wanting to be different, wanting to individuate themselves, wanting to entertain people, including themselves as well as their friends by doing something, you know, something naughty or unexpected."
Ghost Exodus is a former black hat hacker turned humanitarian activist.
He shows us a ready-to-use programme for hacking are easily available: "This tool is fully autonomous. And what it is, it's basically a network /penetration testing framework. It can be thought of like a Swiss Army knife. It can brute force all open services. It doesn't require a whole lot of user input. So even if you don't know how to do these things on your own, you would use an autonomous script to run these things for you. And the end result, I mean, is what you would hope."
Script Kiddies are being motivated by a growth in opportunities, says Christian Funk, Head of GReAT Germany, Kaspersky: "Script Kiddies have had a resurgence in the last like five or six years, and that is due to the increased sophistication in cybercrime that there is more ransomware. And this is an easy way for people to make easy money."
And the growing interconnectedness of our systems is increasing our vulnerability, says Security Researcher, Mike Jones: "The hacks now are more encompassing because we have more connected technology. You have refrigerators, fish tanks, heating systems. So back before the Internet, we didn't have HVACs connected to the Internet. Now you can shut down an entire hospital like we saw on the East Coast with ransomware. So the attacks are getting worse."
_Watch this episode of _hacker : HUNTER in the Video Player above