Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mothers, Don't Let Your Kids Grow Up To Be Cyber Hackers

Here's one of life's little pitfalls that I am guessing most parents haven't warned their children against: Becoming a Cyber Hacker! Let me explain!

This morning I was snoozing away when my son Harvey woke me up in a panic.
"Mom, my PayPal account has been hacked"
"Huh?" (me)
"Somebody hacked into my PayPal account and changed the password and all the security questions"
"Huh? How did they..." (me)
You get the picture. It seems that is account had indeed been hacked, and he was having a heck of a time trying to get it back.

Soon, I was on the phone with PayPal customer service who informed me that he would not be held responsible for any fraudulent transactions, (relief) but that he should call back with his bank account number and information when he had it. (Murphy says: Stuff like this will happen when you are out of town and don't have access to your bank statements.) OK, Fine.

Then my son tells me:
"I have the email address of the guy who did this."
What? You know the person who did this?
Yes, he changed my password to my email and steam account too!
(I overhear my son's friend who came skiing with us say to Harvey, "Do you know his mom's phone number?")

And now I understand what is happening.

Teenage boys think it is a hilarious prank to "hack" the various accounts of other teenage boys. Especially the ones who are into online gaming etc. They get into each others' MySpace, Facebook, Steam account and email accounts etc. and take control. This has happened once before, I recall. Usually what happens is that control is retrieved by the rightful owner, who, slightly embarrassed and very mad, changes all of his passwords. The end.

PayPal, however, is like a bank. I don't know the legalities, but I suspect that this is going to have some serious ramifications for the young man. When money is involved, things start being taken far more seriously. Like this hacker who now faces up to 60 years in prison:

John Schiefer, 26, will plead guilty later this month or early next month to four felony counts: accessing protected computers to conduct fraud, disclosing illegally intercepted electronic communications, wire fraud and bank fraud.
Forget "Have you seen Junior's grades?" worry about "Have you seen Junior's list of Federal Indictments?"


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