As teenager admits hack, let’s not forget TalkTalk’s shameful security

“I was just showing off to my mates.”

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]
TalkTalk's shameless security | Graham Cluley

British telecoms firm TalkTalk would love the world to think that they suffered a highly sophisticated and sustained attack. The truth, however, is that they fell foul of a bog standard SQL injection attack – the type that any decent web programmer has been hardening their systems against for the last 20 years or so.

As I describe in my video, the SQL injection attack, combined with leaving database software unpatched 3.5 years after a fix was available, and not putting better monitoring systems in place after earlier attacks, meant that TalkTalk was easy prey for a 16-year-old hacker to breach their systems.

The boy, now 17 years old, pleaded guilty at Norwich Youth Court today to seven charges under the Computer Misuse Act.

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As BBC News reports, there’s a chance that the hacker has learnt his lesson:

The cyber attack on the company in October 2015 prompted fears thousands of people may have had their online details stolen.

The boy told magistrates: “I didn’t think of the consequences at the time. I was just showing off to my mates.”

“It was a passion, not any more. I won’t let it happen again. I have grown up,” he added.

We can only hope that TalkTalk, and other companies, have learnt their lesson too.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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