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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 19:00 GMT 20:00 UK
Teenage hackers target security flaws

Raphael Gray downloaded thousands of credit card numbers
By Panorama reporter Jane Corbin

When the Welsh police knocked on Raphael Gray's door in a sleepy village earlier this year, they brought an FBI agent with them to arrest the teenager who had downloaded 26,000 credit card numbers using his computer.

Gray had created a simple programme that allowed him to access one of Microsoft's most widely used software products. Through it he was able to pin point, at random, retail sites online where thousands of credit card numbers were stored.

He was then able to access the numbers.

"It was just click, click, click and I was downloading thousands. You could teach your grandmother how to do it, it was that easy," he said.

Raphael Gray: "It was just click, click, click"

When Gray received no response from the retailers, who he says he alerted to the security flaws, he posted the card numbers on his own website where they were used by others for fraudulent purchases.

Microsoft acknowledges security flaws in some of its products by putting special software on its website which can be downloaded free to fix the problem.

But it is up to customers to protect themselves.

"Not everybody knows about it," says Gray, "It's a catch 22 situation where Microsoft don't want to tell the world they've got a problem but they want the world to know they've got a fix."

Gray is part of a growing problem - teenagers with the urge and the computer skills to break into computers, stealing classified data and personal financial details.

While Gray insists he did not hack for personal gain he acknowledges there are criminals who want to use young hackers for their skills.

Criminal gains

He has already been approached by someone wanting him to launder money.

"It was tempting," he admitted. "I was offered anything I wanted, money, a flat, anything - no questions asked, just do this bank and that bank."

The teenager turned the offer down but says there are many other hackers out there who would accept the job.

And there are more shadowy groups on the Internet seeking to use young hackers.

A Californian teenager calling himself "chameleon" online was persuaded to break into US defence sites and steal satellite mapping imagery.

He was being paid $1000 by a man claiming to be a follower of Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader who is believed to be behind the bombing of US embassies in East Africa two years ago.

Twenty-two FBI agents raided the teenager's home at gun point just before chameleon managed to ship the software.

Panorama's Cyber Attack will be screened on BBC One at 2200 GMT on Monday, 3 July.

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See also:

11 Feb 00 | UK
A - Z: Hack attack
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