Hacker boy

Posted November 30, 2016

Hacker boy

I’m on the bus. A spotty 11 year old schoolboy is seated in front of me. He is talking excitedly to his friend about a programme he has written. This programme gives him access to all the computer passwords for his classroom - both teachers and pupils. 

I can’t believe how easily he can circumvent the school’s computer security systems. The boy makes it sound like a doddle.

“Look,” he says, waving his mobile phone in front of his friend. 

His friend gives it a cursory glance. 

“I can just plug it in and all the passwords are under my control,” the boy says, with pride.

Given my scant knowledge of all things technical, I am guessing that the boy has created a phone app. I’m impressed. I wouldn’t have a clue where to start. His friend merely grunts. He is more interested in the game he’s playing on his own phone than anything his friend has created. I can see that the boy is itching to demonstrate his skills. He tries one last time to grab the attention of his friend.

“Are there any teachers you don’t like?” he asks. 

Woah! All of a sudden this is getting sinister. Up until this point it’s been amusing to imagine what kind of high jinks this schoolboy gets up to: an email from the PE teacher cancelling the cross country run on a freezing, wet Thursday afternoon; a posting on the school website, confirming that ‘Pizza Week’ starts on Monday (signed Fat Jamie). 

Targeting an unpopular teacher, however, turns a comical attempt at anarchy into something more vengeful. Thankfully, the friend doesn’t respond. The boy turns away, looking disappointed. He’s obviously very clever. It’s also clear that he wants his cleverness to be recognised. 

What if he doesn’t get the peer recognition he seeks? Will he progress to bolder hacking schemes? I fear the day he starts asking Is there a politician you don’t like? or Is there a country you don’t like? He’ll then go on to explain about the latest programme he’s written and how it brings all the nuclear codes under his control. We shouldn’t be worrying about Donald Trump’s mercurial temper. Before he gets the chance to press a button, some 11 year-old techno geek will have beaten him to it. 

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