British teenager arrested over hacking US intelligence emails

A British teenager has been arrested on suspicion of hacking the email accounts of top level US intelligence officials, according to US officials familiar with case.

CNN has reported comments from officials who have been briefed on the investigation, saying that a member of the notorious “Crackas with Attitude” group has been arrested.

The suspect was arrested by British police and is reportedly under 18 years of age.

In an interview in October with the Daily Dot, a teenager calling himself Cracka purported to be a member of a cyber gang called Crackas with Attitude and said he expected to be arrested at any moment.

The group has claimed responsibility for infiltrating the personal email accounts of top US intelligence officials including CIA director John Brennan, the then FBI Deputy Director Mark Giuliano and James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence.

The FBI is reportedly impressed by the teenager's ability to cover his tracks which he apparently did with the help of plug-in operating systems.

The agency's original assessment was that the hacks were too sophisticated to be the work of a teenager. 

However, David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, points to research indicating that it would be naive to believe teenagers can't be hackers – and good ones at that. 

A recent Kaspersky Lab survey found that 12 percent of 16-19 year olds in the UK know somebody who has engaged in potentially illegal cyber activity.

“Perhaps more worryingly, when asked how they'd feel if a friend managed to replace the homepage of a major bank with a cartoon and the story made headline news, over a third – 35 percent – said that they'd be impressed,” Emm said.

“Teenagers often seek approval from their peers, and an accessible dark web offers them the chance to put their cyber skills to the test to win some plaudits. For example, specialist browsers required to gain access are freely available online and discussion groups used by cybercriminals are often open to outsiders,” Emm said.

“Even more serious problems occur when the young people exploring or experimenting can become vulnerable to exploitation for more complex schemes. They may be drawn into fraudulent activity by playing the role of a money mule, or being asked to create a malicious program. It's far harder to get out than it is to get in,” he said.