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

“I was just showing off to my mates.”

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
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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.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the cybersecurity industry, having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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