Austrian Police Arrest 15-year-old Suspected of 259 Hack Attacks

Austrian police have arrested a 15-year-old suspected of 259 hack attacks in three months, they said Monday. The youth has confessed, the Federal Criminal Police Office said.

The youth is suspected of stealing and damaging data and publishing user data that was illegally obtained by hacking websites and databases, according to the Austrian police. He is suspected of breaching the security of 259 companies, public institutions and authorities in Austria and other countries between January and March this year.

Police allege the suspect scanned the internet for weaknesses and programming mistakes in websites and databases that could be exploited, the police said.

Then, police allege, he used a tool to capture user data and login credentials from vulnerable sites. Parts of the obtained data were published on the Internet or made accessible via Twitter, police said. The youth is also suspected of having gained access to websites to alter the appearance of home pages.

The youth confessed he was responsible and said he was bored and wanted to prove himself, police said.

Police could not say what damage the hacker had caused because their investigation was still in progress.

This case shows how vulnerable computer systems are, and how much affinity today's youth have with computers and technology, the interior ministry of Austria said in a statement. The ministry noted that it is often adolescents who try to built their own identity by hacking and warned that youths could easily become offenders. The actions in this case might look like a prank, but are not minor offenses, the ministry warned.

Internet crimes are not only a youth problem, the federal police said. Eleven percent of Internet-related crimes in Austria in 2011 were committed by 10- to 21-year-olds, 17 percent by 21- to 25-year-olds, and 46 percent of the crimes by 25- to 40-year-olds. The police promised to focus more prevention workshops and school lectures to educate Austrian children about the pitfalls of the Internet.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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