UK Teen Charged for Trying to Hack into Computers of High-Profile CIA, FBI & US DoJ Officials

Rafia Shaikh

A British teenager has admitted in a court today that he tried to hack into the computers of several top officials in the US, including the former CIA chief, John Brennan. Working out of his home in England, Kane Gamble, 18, pleaded guilty to ten charges of attempted intrusions in late 2015 and early 2016, specifically targeting the US Department of Justice.

The high-ranking officials that Gamble has admitted to have targeted also include James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence in the Obama administration, Jeh Johnson, the former US Secretary of Homeland Security, and John Holdren, Obama’s former science and technology adviser.

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Gamble is said to have been 15 when he first attempted to gain access to some of these accounts. The ten charges include two charges of unauthorized acts with intent to impair operation of a computer (modification of material found on the computer), the other eight of securing unauthorized access.

BBC has shared the following timeline of his hacking attempts. It is unclear at the moment if he managed to steal any information from these high-profile US security officials.

  • Gamble was accused of "causing a computer to perform a function to secure unauthorised access to a program or data held in computers" belonging to Mr Brennan between 1 June and 30 October 2015.
  • The teenager attempted to gain unauthorised access to the computer of the then US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson between 4 July and 22 October 2015.
  • On 17 October, 2015, Gamble tried to access the computer of Ms Haines.
  • Between 18 October and Christmas Day 2015 Gamble targeted FBI Special Agent Amy Hess.
  • The teenager attempted to gain access to the computer of Mr Giuliano between 29 October and 16 November.
  • Gamble tried to hack into an FBI portal between 2 November and 22 November 2015.
  • Gamble targeted a Comcast account operated by James Clapper, director of National Intelligence under President Obama, between 4 January and 12 January 2016.
  • Between 5 January and 18 January 2016, he tried to gain access to the computer of Vonna Weir Heaton, the former intelligence executive of the US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.
  • Between 17 January and 20 January 2016, Gamble targeted a Comcast account operated by Mr Holdren.
  • The final charge involved an attempt to gain access to the US Department of Justice's network between 26 January and 4 February 2016.

At the time when these US officials were being targeted, reports had suggested that they were part of a wider campaign by a group known as "Crackas With Attitude." Two people in North Carolina were also arrested by the DoJ in September 2016. It isn't clear if Gamble was working with them. After his hearing at Leicester Crown Court, Gamble was released on conditional bail and will be sentenced in December.

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