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Juvenile computer hacking is more than harmless fun

Parents are often impressed at how adeptly their teens use a multitude of technologies. Their sons or daughters may spend hours gaming or staring at weird-looking code as they scroll through screens and occasionally type in a symbol or two. Teens often speak to their tech-savvy friends in terms that mystify their parents; however, adults accept the geek-speak as part of today's technology-saturated generation.

In general, teens like to experiment with computer hacking. It is fun and an impressive hack scores bragging rights. Adults usually believe teens hack to download proprietary software, or music and videos. Dimly aware of the criminal aspects, parents may nevertheless be impressed. They see a bright future ahead of their junior tech prodigy who will probably end up with top honors at MIT or Carnegie Mellon and score a lucrative career in computer technology.

Statistics reveal the dangerous side of juvenile hacking

Contrary to their parents' innocent beliefs, young hackers have moved far beyond pirating software. A review of all-time top teen hackers brings the picture into focus.

  • A 13-year-old boy and his friends hacked big banks, IBM, GE and military computers. The U.S. government sentenced him to 45 years in prison.
  • A 15-year-old boy hacked into the U.S. Department of Defense. He got access to the code needed to operate the International Space Station, forcing NASA to shut down their entire computer system.
  • A 16-year-old boy and his friend invaded the Pentagon’s computer, raked in high-security data from U.S. agents in North Korea, gained access to a Korean nuclear facility, and nearly sparked an international inferno between the USA and North Korea.

These high-profile cases admittedly represent unusually talented juvenile hackers, but they illustrate the potential for teens to perform far beyond the level of innocent pranks.

Statistics show the catastrophic financial effect of juvenile hacking

Juvenile hacking was responsible for a staggering $100 billion in loss to the United States economy in 2017. Teen hacking is carried out by thousands of teens, many of whom are technologically sophisticated enough to hide their tracks.

Texas Penal Code § 33.01, et seq. is an extensive computer crimes statute. If parents suspect a teen is engaged in hacking, they should assume it is not an innocent after-school activity. Help is available in north San Antonio and cities across the state to protect juveniles who may not understand the severe consequences of a hacking conviction. Parents in this situation should research their options to locate appropriate resources for help. State and federal agents are using powerful technology to expose and convict juvenile hackers. Preparing ahead of time can make a difference in the penalties a teen may face. 

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