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Incarcerated Teen Hacker Joins Prison’s IT Class, Hacks Mainframe

by Adriana Lee | March 4, 2013March 4, 2013 5:30 pm PDT


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It may not shock anyone that there was a website that taught would-be criminals how to commit identity theft and online cons. And perhaps it’s no surprise that the evil mastermind behind the site — which had 8,000 members and was potentially responsible for £15 million stolen worldwide — was a teenager. (Nicholas Webber had just passed his 18th birthday when he was arrested in October 2009 in England.) The five-year sentence also may have been a bit light, but that’s not exactly jaw-dropping either.

The astonishment sets in upon closer examination of the kid’s time in prison: The teen wound up in HM Prison Isis, a Category C male Young Offenders Institution, in South East London. That’s where he signed up for IT classes… and then proceeded to hack the prison’s mainframe computer.

There’s only one word that does this scenario justice: Duh. Who puts a convicted black-hat hacker in a prison IT class, where he can access the institution’s mainframe? Was it the IT instructor? Well, he denies any blame for this 2011 incident. The only reason it has come to light now is because the teacher, Michael Fox, has just alleged unfair dismissal, saying he wasn’t the one who allowed the youth into class.

Of course the prison just wants to downplay the situation: “At the time of this incident in 2011,” says a Prison Service spokesman, “the educational computer system at HMP Isis was a closed network. No access to personal information or wider access to the internet or other prison systems would have been possible.” Even so, when it comes to tech security, the prison just can’t seem to catch a break. Earlier this year, HMP Isis suffered numerous tech glitches with its biometric thumbprint security.

Hopefully, they kept Webber far away from the troubleshooting on that.

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Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...