Aussie teenager hacked Apple — twice in two years
A South Australian boy who was just 13 years old when he hacked one of the world's most secure computer mainframes has been warned, by a court, to use his skills "for good rather than evil" in the future.
On Monday, the Youth Court heard the boy was so skilled that he breached Apple's cutting-edge security systems a second time two years later, aged 15.
It was told the boy had hoped to score a job with the trillion-dollar corporate giant - instead, authorities in two countries hunted him down and Federal agents swarmed his home to arrest him.
Magistrate David White noted the remorseful boy now dreamt of working in cybersecurity and criminology to protect other companies from actions such as his - and urged him to pursue that path.
"You are clearly a gifted individual, but those who have the advantage of gifts don't have the right to abuse them," he said.
"We all know that the manner in which the world functions is heavily reliant on computer technology, and those who unlawfully interfere with it can do enormous damage.
"You must remain on the straight and narrow and use your gifts for good rather than evil."
The boy, who cannot be named, pleaded guilty to multiple computer hacking offences.
The court heard that, in early 2015, he and a boy in Melbourne gained access to Apple's servers in the US by creating false employee credentials.
That granted them access to parts of the technology, music, app and entertainment company unseen by outsiders.
The court heard the duo lost their access sometime after their first hack, and mourned their misfortune in a series of text messages.
In 2017 the Melbourne boy sought to regain access but could not, and so turned to the SA boy.
His skills allowed the creation of digital "tunnels" into Apple's inner workings, from which the pair downloaded sensitive information and materials.
On Monday, Commonwealth prosecutors told the court Apple had suffered neither damage nor financial loss as a result of the offending.
They said the company's security systems eventually detected the 2017 hack and called in the FBI, who in turn contacted the Australian Federal Police.
Mark Twiggs, for the boy, said the Melbourne co-offender was spared a conviction and placed on a good behaviour bond.
He asked his client receive the same treatment.
"He's someone who can look at a computer system and see the gaps and flaws in it," he said.
"At the time, he had no idea about the seriousness of what he was doing … he hoped that when he was discovered he might gain employment with the company to stop future incursions.
"Your Honour will often hear stories of people on the edge of good and evil who are grabbed up by these companies."
Mr Twiggs said the boy was a respected student leader at his school who had, since his arrest, dedicated himself to improving its IT security.
He said the boy's life goal was to work as a digital criminologist, meaning a conviction would hinder his employment opportunities.
"There's two paths people of his intelligence can go down, and he wants to go down the path of good," he said.
"A conviction might frustrate that … I would hate to see someone of his ability not be able to get on in the community because of something he did when he was 13."
Magistrate White agreed, but said the boy needed to realise any future breach of the law would see him recalled to court for re-sentencing.
He placed him on a nine-month, $500 good behaviour bond and declined to record a conviction.