FLASHBACK: 15-year-Old British Teen Accessed Information to Intelligence Operations in Afghanistan and Iran by Pretending to be CIA Head
According to a British court in 2018, a 15-year-old accessed sensitive plans for intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran by pretending to be the head of the CIA.
The youth from Leicestershire, Kane Gamble used “social engineering” — a process where a person constructs a picture of information and uses it to manipulate other individuals into handing over more information — in order to access the personal and work accounts of some of America’s highest-ranking intelligence officials.
The teenager was able to convince employees at an internet giant that he was John Brennan, the CIA director at the time, to be able to access his computers.
Similarly, the teenager pretended to be Mark Giuliano, the FBI’s Deputy Director, when calling the FBI helpdesk in order to access the intelligence database.
Gamble also targeted the US Secretary of Homeland Security and Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence.
The British teenager taunted his targets online, leaked personal information, flooded them with calls and messages, downloaded pornography onto their computers and took over their iPads and TVs, according to a court.
Justice Haddon-Cave stated: “He got these people in his control and played with them in order to make their lives difficult.”
The prosecutor, John Lloyd-Jones, claimed that Gamble founded Crackas With Attitude (CWA) in 2015.
Gamble told a journalist: “It all started by me getting more and more annoyed about how corrupt and cold blooded the US Government are so I decided to do something about it.”
Lloyd-Jones said this incident did not involve hacking but instead involved the use of “social engineering” to get information from emails, phones, computers and law enforcement portals.
“It involves manipulating people, invariably call centre or help desk staff, into permitting acts or divulging confidential information,” the prosecutor stated.
Gamble pleaded guilty to ten offences under the computer misuse act.
He first targeted Brennan and was able to enter his Verizon internet account by initially pretending to be an employee of the company and then Brennan himself in order to build up a fake persona.
Gamble was at first denied access to Brennan’s computers because he could not name Brennan’s first pet, but the handler changed the pin and security questions in subsequent calls.
He later employed similar methods to gain access to Brennan’s AOL account. Afterwards, Gamble successfully accessed Brennan’s emails, contacts, his iCloud storage account and his wife’s iPad remotely.
Lloyd-Jones stated: “He accessed some extremely sensitive accounts referring to, among other things, military operations and intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran.”
Gamble, who is now 18, then posted sensitive information on Twitter and Wikileaks and taunted officials about gaining access to sensitive information.
Occasionally, he used the tag #freePalestine and claimed it was because the U.S. Government was “killing innocent people”.
Gamble employed similar techniques when he hacked the home broadband of Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and was able to listen to his voicemails and send texts from his phone.
He overwhelmed Johnson and his wife with calls, asking her: “Am I scaring you?” and left messages threatening to “bang his daughter”, according to the court.
Gamble’s actions are reprehensible and should be punished accordingly given how they were directed towards former and current officials of the U.S. government.
Nevertheless, this kind of antagonism is to be expected.