February 8, 2013
Child Hackers Use Malicious Code To Level Up In Online Games
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
To be honest, we all should have seen this coming.
According to BBC News, AVG´s Virus Labs have discovered that children as young as 11 years old have been writing malicious code to hack into other systems. Unsurprisingly, these young children are using this code to hack into online gaming networks in order to steal digital currency used in the games as well as extra tools and weapons to help them progress through the levels.
And, again unsurprisingly, these children aren´t very good at hiding their tracks, leaving their email addresses and other identifiers open for anyone to see. Thus, these hacking attacks were easily located by the virus team.
Now, AVG is saying children must be taught the “rights and wrongs” of coding by parents and schools, teaching them that using code to cheat or steal from a game is the same as theft.
"As more schools are educating people for programming in this early stage, before they are adults and understand the impact of what they're doing, this will continue to grow." said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer at AVG in an interview with BBC News.
According to their blog post revealing these child hackers, AVG claims that these kids are mostly writing the malware in order to show off to their friends. They might also use this code to steal other´s log in information or play pranks on one another. Though these attacks are seemingly innocuous, AVG points out that these log ins are often tied to sensitive data, such as credit card numbers. Once a log in is cracked, this could leave victims open to further attacks, should the child hackers feel up to the task.
“Furthermore, many gamers unfortunately use the same login details for social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, potentially putting the victim at risk of cyber-bullying, in addition to identity theft and major inconvenience,” reads the AVG blog post.
Most of the code written by these child hackers are simple Trojans written with the .NET framework. These Trojans are not only easy to write, but are also easily deployed through email or social media networks. Essentially, this code is easily written by amateurs and often makes victims out of amateur users.
“Unlike fully fledged cyber criminals, we don´t believe these junior programmers are motivated by making money but more likely the thrill of outwitting their peers and the admiration of their friends,” claims AVG´s experts.
In one specific example of these amateur hacks, a program disguised as a cheat program for online gamers was actually used to steal data and email it to the hackers responsible for the code.
"The malware author included in that code the exact email address and password and additional information - more experienced hackers would never put these type of details in malware,” said Ben-Itzhak, speaking to the BBC. In this example, the email address belonged to an 11-year old Canadian boy.
Though these child hackers have a narrow view for what they plan to obtain through their attacks, Ben-Itzhak believes they should be taught that stealing online is the same as stealing in real life.
"You teach your children that you can't take a toy without paying - so I think this type of a message needs to get to the kids when they're writing software too."