Australian teenager hacked Apple’s network multiple times, accessed 90GB worth of files

Canadian security officials are assessing a hack that appears to have penetrated key U.S. government agencies. Towfiqu Photography / Getty Images

Court documents reveal that a 16-year-old hacker from Australia allegedly broke into tech giant Apple’s computer systems and may have downloaded internal files.

The Age newspaper reports that the teenager’s actions were driven by an admiration for the company, and that the boy stored the stolen files in a folder entitled “hacky hack hack.” The teen reportedly downloaded over 90 gigabytes of data and accessed customer accounts without exposing his identity.

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The Australian Federal Police searched the teen’s home last year, the court documents state, which produced two laptops, a mobile phone and a hard drive that matched the intrusion reported by Apple. The reports also reveal that the boy boasted about his activities on the encrypted messaging app, WhatsApp.

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“Two Apple laptops were seized and the serial numbers matched the serial numbers of the devices which accessed the internal systems,” a prosecutor said. “A mobile phone and hard drive were also seized and the IP address … matched the intrusions into the organisation. The purpose was to connect remotely to the company’s internal systems.”

The Age goes on to report that the investigation began when Apple became aware of the intrusion and contacted the FBI, who passed the case over to the Australian Federal Police.

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Apple spoke out Friday to reassure users that no customer data was compromised in the breach.

“At Apple, we vigilantly protect our networks and have dedicated teams of information security professionals that work to detect and respond to threats,” a company spokesman told Guardian Australia in a statement.

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“In this case, our teams discovered the unauthorized access, contained it, and reported the incident to law enforcement. We regard the data security of our users as one of our greatest responsibilities and want to assure our customers that at no point during this incident was their personal data compromised.”

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The teenager later told police that he’d dreamed of one day becoming an Apple employee. The boy’s defence attorney said at one point that his client had become so well known in the international hacking community that exposing the details of the case could expose him to risk.

Dr. Suelette Dreyfus, a privacy expert with the University of Melbourne, told Guardian Australia that a punitive sentence would be “a waste of that potential.”

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“I have researched a number of teen hacker cases internationally. Almost all these teens grew out of the technology boundary-pushing of their youth, and then went on to live useful lives and contributing to society. Putting them in prison is often a waste of that potential.

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“Young people often make mistakes when they are exploring and rule-breaking especially online – including boasting about their exploits. It’s not right, but for tech teens, it can be a part of growing up … there’s usually a really worried teen and family at the end of this sort of court case,” Dreyfus explained.

The boy, whose name could not be made public because he is a juvenile offender, will be sentenced on Sept. 20.

Apple recently became the world’s most valuable company, valued at over $1 trillion.

–With files from Reuters. 

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