And The Hackers Get Younger by the (Zero) Day

A 10-year-old girl, who goes by the pseudonym – “CyFi”, has found that games apps on smartphones or tablets running on iOS or Android mobile platforms can be hacked into by tinkering with the device’s clock settings, which exposes an exploitable security loophole, or a “zero-day flaw”.

The girl displayed her hacking skills at the first annual DefCon Kids hacker conference – a subset of DefCon Hackers Conference in Las Vegas, the self-identified “world’s longest running and largest underground hacking conference”. Her presentation was titled “Apps — A Traveler of Both Time and Space; And What I Learned About Zero-Days and Responsible Disclosure”.

Bored with the slow progress of farming-type games on the smartphone, CyFi advanced the clock on the device to manipulate the game, since, as she puts it, “it was hard to make progress in the game, because it took so long for things to grow”. These games are developed in such a way that such cheating can be detected and blocked; but the girl found a workaround by disconnecting the device from Wi-Fi and advancing its clock by small increments. She even taunted the developers, “the world of apps has obvious[ly] not thought about security, yet”. A crack that’s sure to smart, coming from a Girl Scout, a spoken word artist and a young athlete, who is yet to get ‘pumkin’ spelled right.

The real name of the girl prodigy has not been revealed, but the Associated Press reports that she is the daughter of a pair of DefCon stalwarts. DefCon was started in 1993 by its founder Jeff Moss, a hacker of renown under the pseudonym “Dark Tangent”, who is now on the White House Homeland Security Advisor Council and is now the ICANN Chief Security Officer.

During the two-day conference, adult hackers mounted attacks on government organizations and large corporations to demonstrate how easy it is to gain access to data. The meeting also included in its sidelines, sessions for budding young hackers, who were accompanied by their parents.

It seems we are acknowledging and even embracing the the importance of being educated in the art of hacking in today’s technology-driven world. And the earlier we can start, apparently, the better.

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