Teenage Brit used social engineering to access accounts of top FBI & CIA officials

Teenage Brit used social engineering to access accounts of top FBI & CIA officials

Cyber risk and reward

A British teenager has confessed to having accessed e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and personal devices of former CIA director John Brennan, the former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and former FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano by using social engineering tactics in 2015.

15-year-old Kane Gamble was also able to access confidential US intelligence documents pertaining to highly secretive operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by using his social engineering skills.

According to reports, Gamble decided to target the top officials at U.S. intelligence agencies in 2015 after he became really annoyed with the ‘corrupt and cold-blooded’ nature of the U.S. government. During the course of his operation, he not only used information obtained through his social engineering skills to harass his victims and to threaten them, but also to access sensitive details concerning overseas U.S. military operations in troubled countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Having gained access to former CIA director John Brennan’s Verizon account by pretending to be an employee and then Brennan himself, Gable proceeded to gain access to Mr Brennan’s AOL account, his e-mail address, his iCloud storage account, his wife’s iPad and his contacts.

He also used his skills to gain access to the phone and home broadband of former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who he then harrassed with intimidating messages and threats. The following year, he used information available with him to gain access to the FBI’s Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (Leap) and used the information he found therein to gain access to former FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano’s home accounts.

To sum it up, between the age of 15 and 16, Gable managed to gain access to almost every account and device owned by top officials at the CIA and the FBI without being intercepted while staying with his mother in Coalville, Leicestershire. Now 18, Gable is facing prosecution for ten offences under the Computer Misuse Act

Gable first boasted about his exploits using his Twitter account @phphax after he gained access to Brennan’s personal email, which contained documents including his 47-page security clearance. He also claimed to be a member of CWA, or ‘Crackas With Attitude’, before revealing to journalists that he had accessed personal information belonging to intelligence officers, including Social Security Numbers, in addition to Brennan’s private email account.

Gable’s story isn’t much different than those of many other young Brits who have, in the last few months, found themselves at the wrong side of the law after testing their cyber skills in real life. Back in September, Jack Chappel, an 18-year old resident of Stockport in Greater Manchester, was arrested after he pled guilty for creating and selling a malicious DDoS software which was then used to crash websites belonging to NatWest bank, Amazon, the BBC, O2, BT, the NCA, EE, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, Netflix and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others.

Back in April, a 20-year old hacker named Adam Mudd was jailed for 2 years for orchestrating as many as 1.7 million cyber-attacks on the likes of Xbox Live, Minecraft and TeamSpeak. He admitted to creating a software named Titanium Stresser using which he launched as many as 600 DDoS cyber-attacks on 181 victims.

He used to loan out the software to other hackers who used it extensively on 650,000 users including on Xbox Live and Runescape users, culminating to a total of 1.7 million hacking attempts. In just two years, Titanium Stresser earned Mudd close to £400,000 in bitcoins and cash.

The fact that teenagers are getting increasingly drawn to cyber crime hasn’t escaped the attention of the National Crime Agency. The agency believes that the reason behind teenagers getting lured to committing cyber crimes is the presence of websites and forums which share cheat codes to get around computer games.

On these forums, teenagers get to learn new crafts like developing trojans, malware, and DDoS software. As such, the NCA believes that the skill barrier into cyber-crime is lower than ever and that many of them do not view such activities as crimes.

‘In some cases when these individuals have been contacted via a home visit, parents and carers are frequently amazed to discover they have been engaging in illegal activity because they spend so much time in their bedrooms,’ said a report released from the agency.

The NCA aims to draw away teenagers from the world of cyber-crimes by offering legal and attractive alternatives, educating them about the risks of getting caught and helping them channelize their talents to tackling cyber crime itself.

Copyright Lyonsdown Limited 2021

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