back to article British Crackas With Attitude chief gets two years in the cooler for CIA spymaster hack

The British teenager who was sufficiently talented and stupid to hack the webmail of the head of the CIA was today sent down for two years. Kane Gamble, who is now 18 but was 15 at the time of the attacks, blagged his way into the internet accounts of top American officials, including then-CIA chief John Brennan's AOL account …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Another Perspective....

      You know what I find "unusual and worrying" Shadmeister?

      left Johnson's wife a creepy voicemail message in which he asked: "Am I scaring you?"

      That part of the story. Up until then, in my eyes he was a stupid teenager being a twat.

      After, he was a sadistic little fuck who needed taking down soonest.

      Should we be looking for examples of experiments in cruelty to animals in his history in case he has progressed beyond "creepy" to "psychopath"? I don't know, but this is not a kid who deserves sympathy. At best he is a bully.

      He got off light as the article says.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Another Perspective....

        According to the BBC, at least, he's autistic. That's not the same as psychopathic.

        I think the sentence is about right in this case. I'm heartily glad he wasn't extradited to face US "justice". The sentence is enough to show the crime is being taken seriously, but not enough to ruin his whole life. Good.

        1. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Another Perspective....

          According to the BBC, at least, he's autistic.

          They always seem to be autistic these days. I once worked for a company that said it would never employ developers who failed to show at least one symptom of Aspergers.

          1. GrapeBunch Silver badge

            Re: Another Perspective....

            Like reaching over the table and straightening a tangle of paper clips. "I love to do this. Am I hired?"

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: According to the BBC, at least, he's autistic.

          You don't need to point that out. The Asberger's defense is never far behind an indictment of this sort.

          I'm bewildered that the phone message doesn't send screaming alarms off in everyone's heads. Assume he got away with this. How far were we from seeing his name linked to a "swatting" with what may very well be lethal consequences for the poor bugger out in the Real World dealing with this 'silly internet teenager"s behaviour?

          The Reiser is Innocent crowd* are still alive and well it would seem, ready to explain and forgive scary behaviour in their heroes of the moment.

          * For those too young to remember, Reiser (he one who invented the Linux filesystem that bears his name) was found hosing out his brand new car. He had removed the rear seats, carpets and so on and was "washing" it. Police, looking for his missing (presumed dead) wife thought this extremely suspicious, but people in these comment pages loudly proclaimed the ordinariness of dismantling a new car and turning a garden hose on it's insides "to clean it".

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: According to the BBC, at least, he's autistic.

            Look, autism is a real thing, and it's not the same as psychopathy. It doesn't help anyone to paint every criminal with the same brush.

            True, some people are just plain fucked up and need to be kept away from us all for everyone's safety. But for a lot of them, the only reason they do what they do is that no-one has ever taken the trouble to explain to them why it's bad, or how to determine what is bad. (Because you're expected to know that instinctively, or something. In practice nobody does, but the autistic kid - knows that they don't, and therefore has a compulsion to find the limits by testing them.)

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: According to the BBC, at least, he's autistic.

              "Look, autism is a real thing, and it's not the same as psychopathy."

              Indeed, but it's also possible to be autistic and psychopathic. The vindictive and sociopathic behaviour described is not autism.

        3. Aodhhan

          Re: Another Perspective....

          Autistic my ass, and it irritates me beyond belief his defense paid off some 'expert' to provide this opinion. It demeans and sheds a bad light on those who are truly autistic; as if autistic children are one look away from doing criminal acts.

          All the court did with this light sentence is affirm such thinking, and displays the judge's ignorance and laziness to actually do some minor research.

          An autistic teenager wouldn't attempt to make contact and leave messages. Doing so is a display of authority, and a willingness to abuse this authority. Entirely different from someone who cannot comprehend right from wrong.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Another Perspective....

        "That part of the story. Up until then, in my eyes he was a stupid teenager being a twat."

        Still in keeping with a stupid teenager being a twat.

      3. The Nazz Silver badge

        Re: Another Perspective....

        It'll perhaps never happen but it ought to.

        I look forward to the day when a "defence" lawyer actually states : "He's a sadistic little fuck who needs taking down soonest."

        rather than the, oh he's a misguided naive little schoolboy who meant to do no one any harm, he'd like to sit his GCSE's.

        Mystical Meg foresees : Hey Mr/Ms GCSE marker, whilst you're marking my paper, am i scaring you?

        All of this in a day and age when saying "Hey lass, you're looking a little pudgy, shouldn't you be getting yourself down the gym" is a hate crime.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

      5. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

        Re: Another Perspective....

        Totally agree. Right up the point where you start harassing the wife I might buy an argument that you're a politically motivated activist using illegal means to further your cause. Illegal, but I can respect other viewpoints. Intimidating a person's spouse though? That's out of bounds. Where I come from you get your ascii kicked at a bare minimum.

      6. Old Englishman

        Re: Another Perspective....

        The sentence seems about right to me, as does the judge's attitude: this was a hate-filled politically motivated assault, deserving a heavy sentence, mitigated only by his age.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Another Perspective....

      "This person was able to social engineer access to peoples accounts. So this does seem to be quite easy to do. So, we are all at risk then, and has it already happened to people by others who want to remain under the radar ?"

      Yes it's pretty easy to do. Yes, someone could do it to your account (but if you're not the head of the CIA, your threat level is probably lower).

      It's not really under the radar though. Social engineering has been part of the hacker toolkit since before there were home computers (the old school phone phreaks got very good at it), and it's still the easiest way to get access to a system. If you've not heard much about it before it's probably because it's so widespread that nobody considers it worth mentioning.

      Here's an example from last year.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Another Perspective....

      It sounds like a combination of being a sociopathic little shit (I've run into quite a few over the years online) and embarrassing the sociopathic shits in 3-letter agencies by showing up their theatrics and lack of security for what they are.

      Thankfully, most, 13-15 year olds grow out of it. (most, not all)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not convinced that a custodial sentence is appropriate. This is an obviously bright individual who needs guidance as he grows up. I've experienced the prison system and it is not sophisticated enough to deal with individuals like this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Agreed, he'll be recruited into hacking cars and the like very quickly, won't get his GCSE's due to being inside and have no prospects whatsoever. How do you explain the 2 year delay on your CV? There is also the cost to sit them when he gets out (higher education ain't free after 18)

      You have to ask yourself why such a sentence has been given and what the reasoning behind it was. Clearly not a danger to anyone and most probably learned from his mistakes so what could he have done to piss off the authorities?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "How do you explain the 2 year delay on your CV?"

        Depending on who he's explaining it to it could be the high point of his CV.

        "Clearly not a danger to anyone and most probably learned from his mistakes so what could he have done to piss off the authorities?"

        We know what he's done to piss off the authorities. He's shown up a whole lot of very senior US officials as being completely crap at managing their own security and inconvenienced them into tightening up, possibly to the state they should have been in all the time. And not only that, he could do it while not even being bright enough to avoid being caught.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Mostly not their own failings though, You do have to wonder after frank abagnale how this still happens.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "Mostly not their own failings though"

            In their position you'd think they'd go for services which were a bit better managed. Perhaps use providers with a VIP service with specially trained call handlers and the like.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              That's a good point and in the UK I am aware they do have VIP call handler teams (at least in O2 going back 10 years, knew someone that worked in their Leeds call centre)

      2. Anonymous Cowtard

        "How do you explain the 2 year delay on your CV? "

        With great ease : link to media reports such as this one. He has a brilliant mind and deserves rehabilitation alongside punishment. He would be a great asset to a security-focused outfit.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "How do you explain the 2 year delay on your CV? "

          If only NT1 and NT2 had thought of that one.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I see I got a few downvotes, I think I'll expand on this speaking from actual experience.

        He is a hacker, this to me says he's probably not a fighter so he'll either go upstairs with the nonces or he'll go into general population. If he goes into general population they'll be some crim who will think if I protect this lad what can I get out of him when he gets out and that is why he will end up on the wrong side of the law again, there is also the temptation of instant cash when he gets out plus he has someone else to do the dirty work (e.g. nicking a car, popping a cash machine) so the risk to himself is greatly reduced.

        Do we still think prison is the best place for him?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "He is a hacker, this to me says he's probably not a fighter so he'll either go upstairs with the nonces or he'll go into general population. "

          He's going to a young offenders institute. It's basically a residential school. They spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week in classrooms. Yes, it's still a prison environment, but it's far from being an adult prison.

        2. Old Englishman

          The wretchedness of our prison system is not an argument that criminals should be left free to roam.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Clearly not a danger to anyone and most probably learned from his mistakes so what could he have done to piss off the authorities?"

        The reported lack of reaction by him to the verdict suggests he may not have learned his lesson yet.

      5. LucreLout Silver badge

        How do you explain the 2 year delay on your CV?

        Truthfully, or how rehabilitated are you?

        The last time I saw numbers for this, 1 in 3 British men had a conviction for a crime of some sort. Really the only reason convictions for youthful stupidity are a problem as an adult is because we're not transparent about this - concealing convictions under the Rehab Act is distorting most peoples view of how prevalent historic offending is within their own group of colleagues.

        1. RancidOrange

          1 in 3 British men have a conviction? Do you have sauce to go with that?

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            1 in 3 British men have a conviction? Do you have sauce to go with that?

            I do, but I'm afraid you'll have to take it with a pinch of salt, because its a guardian link. The number relates to men under the age of 30, so the actual number may be higher, but I can't prove it with what I have to hand. I accept that conviction rates for women are generally lower than men, however, "men under the age of 30" is really only about a 12-20 year timespan because of the age of criminal responsibility protecting them from convictions. Men would have to comit crime about 4 times faster than for women for my assertion to prove suspect.

            https://www.theguardian.com/money/2002/apr/14/workandcareers.observercashsection

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you've got a better 'ole

      chuck him in it...

      We hope for our criminal justice system to deliver rehabilitation, deterrence, punishment and protection for the innocent, which is a collection of largely incompatible aims, and we are surprised when it does none of them well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If you've got a better 'ole

        innocent? Sure, lets go with that, the CIA have never done anything wrong. He was 15 and stupid.

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: If you've got a better 'ole

        We hope for our criminal justice system to deliver rehabilitation, deterrence, punishment and protection for the innocent, which is a collection of largely incompatible aims, and we are surprised when it does none of them well.

        The problem is caused because of an obsession with arbitrarily short tariffs.

        The proper sequence of events is deterrence, crime, punishment, and then rehabilitation. Skipping over the punishment part in a headlong rush to get people back on the street with minimal inconvenience to their lives is corrupting the punishment part of the process and that is leading to it being no deterrent.

        People don't spit gum on the street in Singapore both because of social norms, and also because serving a very long time in jail for it IS a deterrent. In the UK, provided it is a first offence and you plead guilty at the first hearing, you can freely commit GBH resulting in the hospitalisation of your victim with multiple broken bones, and you will walk out of court with a suspended sentance. That is not a deterrent, it is not really a punishment, and it is certainly not going to rehabilitate you.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: If you've got a better 'ole

          "In the UK, provided it is a first offence and you plead guilty at the first hearing, you can freely commit GBH resulting in the hospitalisation of your victim with multiple broken bones, and you will walk out of court with a suspended sentance."

          That part may not be a deterrent, but the civil prosecution for damages that follows might well be.

    3. Old Englishman

      Agreed. This is why we need birching. :-)

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "I'm not convinced that a custodial sentence is appropriate."

      To be honest nor am I given the state of the UK prison system, but on the other hand if this kid is another Ehud Tannenbaum (Analyser) and the state apparatus tries to get their claws into him (it's highly unlikely, the kid isn't that talented), there's every possibility he'd turn out the same way (a better-trained sociopath).

      I'd like to think that the mental health system would have the facilities to handle him but I'm pretty sure it can't cope either.

  3. John Gamble

    No Relation

    Or at least a relation so distant that I can disclaim it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No Relation

      Do you wanna bet?

      1. John Gamble

        Re: No Relation

        If they don't have (distant) relatives who emigrated to Prince Edward Island, then I win.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Extremely sensitive documents stored on AOL

    "Kane Gamble .. managed to get hold of "extremely sensitive" documents on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan"

    So presumably the Russian spooks already had access to such information.

    'The presiding judge, Charles Haddon-Cave, called it a "nasty campaign of politically motivated cyber-terrorism,"'

    Bo**ix, the real terrorists are currently engaged in trying to destabilize Syria.

    Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs on Syria

    The Truth About the War in Syria

    This is not a movie, this is fake

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not even a slap on the wrist for his crimes

    If you're a digital crim then you need to reside in Blighty because no matter what your crimes Blighty authorities won't extradite you and they may not even prosecute you. If you are convicted then they will turn you over to your Mum for a serious discussion and you'll be able to continue your digital crimes as Blighty doesn't view digital crime as real crime. There is a very high price to pay for such apathy.

    1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      Re: Not even a slap on the wrist for his crimes

      "If you are convicted then they will turn you over to your Mum for a serious discussion and you'll be able to continue your digital crimes as Blighty doesn't view digital crime as real crime."

      He's going to jail. So not sure what you're whining is about.

      As a comparison someone of a similar age who killed four people (by being a dumb teenager with a car), was convicted of four counts of manslaughter managed to get a years home detention and community service.

      So digital crime = jail. manslaughter = home detention and community service.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The only bit of comfort I get from this is that he was tried in England, rather than being sent to the US. My view is that if a 15 year old script kiddie can compromise your systems, then you should be kicking the infosec guy’s arse, not pursue the dumb kid.

    To make an anology of it, if you had a secure warehouse that the feckless youth could easily break into, who would you go after? The kids or the guys who did the woeful job of securing the warehouse?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Blaming InfoSec?

      Are you insane? How could you possibly blame InfoSec for security failings?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The test I apply, in this sort of case...

    Had he done it to me, would he still get the same sentence? Would I want the same punishment? The answer to the first question is probably not. The answer to the second question is a little more complicated, due to a lot of unknowns (chances of reoffending; actual time spent in custody and what kind of environment; whether the punishment is rehabilitative; terms of the license after release*). Who here knows what the sentence given really means?

    With respect to the other arguments, above, I know that if I get caught storing corporate secrets (especially anything considered restricted) on any server not owned by my employer, then I’m likely to be in a certain amount of trouble (I don’t care to find out how much). Yet US government employees seem to store state secrets wherever the want?

    * For example, will the culprit be able pursue an education in their chosen field, after release, or will they be barred from touching a computer or smartphone for a long time.

  8. mhenriday
    Boffin

    Interesting observation, Mr McCarthy :

    «All of which strikes us as a very light and lucky punishment given who he had targeted and what he did.» Those agencies hack us all the time, but they're just doing their jobs, while when they themselves are hacked it's a dastardly deed - and passing the documents to Wikileaks obviously exacerbated the crime. Drawing and quartering and having his head impaled on a pike would no doubt have been too good for Mr Gamble....

    Henri

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Irony is they are now owned by law and order

    So for this young person the lesson is to be more diligent in their own personal security as they were in bypassing the security of others.

    If they had really wanted to succeed in espionage they would not have boasted, left silly messages or revealed to the world at large they owned anyone.

    It could have been your computer, mail or wife, the hackers mission could have been for anything over months. Networking and social hijacking is not usually detectable by antivirus or malware scanners.

    unless we get notifications such as two factor ID.

    For password or other reset we should have to type in a serial number provided with the device, i.e. in the battery compartment of mobile phones etc.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Irony is they are now owned by law and order

      "For password or other reset we should have to type in a serial number provided with the device, i.e. in the battery compartment of mobile phones etc."

      Hmm...

  10. JWLong

    So...........

    What I want to know is, did anyone stick their foot up Aol's or Apple's ass for their part of this bad acting.

    And, as for the political appointees in charge of national security and security agencies, did any of them get fired or at least a good ass chewing. FUCK NO!

    It's little wonder we in the USA have no privacy when we have corporate stooges in charge of making/pushing for privacy/security legislation.

    Think of it this way. How bad is it when you install an OS you have to install a Host file that's 480kb just to keep the basic scum/marketeers and other shit out?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He also goaded the world's most advanced intelligence agencies

    An amateur, but this is understandable, given his age. While the professionals do their job, quietly, and don't even tell you you've met. Oh the indignity!

  12. Thomas Steven 1

    CWA man in Cooler after CIA Spook Cyber Caper

    Sorry, just what came to mind when I saw this story

  13. naive

    Americans are such sour losers

    They behave like they own the world, but start screaming like little babies when something happens to them. There is hacking and hacking, authors of ransomware should of course be hanged in public.

    A 15 yo hacking an organization with an undisclosed budget of countless billions, should have been given a reward and incentives to use his capabilities for the good.

  14. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    There most certainly IS a difference between going after "regular" people verses going after "important" people _in their capacity as important_. Murder of someone because you don't like what they are doing is a crime against the person. Murder of a judge or a prosecutor, or even a witness or a juror is a crime against peaceable society.

    So I do expect his actions to be taken more seriously.

    OTOH, a fifteen year old hacks the head of the CIA? "I'm not even mad. That's amazing." Seriously, the intoxication of the feat drew him into boasting (and thence, getting caught). The creeping was just more of it. I'm certainly on the side of light punishment.

    But what about the fact that the head of the CIA committed a national security felony by putting those documents in a place that they could be obtained? If I were the defense attorney, I would argue that since the man who put these documents in an unsecured location did not even lose his job, that surely the documents could not actually have been important.

    Oh, wait. Brennan's boss was Hilary Clinton. Never mind, then. It's all good.

  15. hapticz

    whos watching the henhouse....

    the court systems remain committed to 'sending a message' to all those beyond their remand, to obey and respect the rule of law (written by those who gain power enough to do so). woe be to anyone (child/adult) who fails to be apprised of the web of edicts (hundreds of thousands) and plays havoc with the stability of the old boys network. the structures of powerful people is much like a simple primitive jungle, ruled essentially by fear, force and direct threat to others, even as democracy is used to portray it otherwise.

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