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1/22/2007
01:53 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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The Wily 9-Year-Old Who 'Hacked' Airport Security

They say social engineering is the most potent form of hacking, and now we have a 9-year-old who's proved it.

They say social engineering is the most potent form of hacking, and now we have a 9-year-old who's proved it.Social engineering is that easiest of all hacking techniques, where instead of doing the tough work of breaking through a security system, one exploits people's natural inclination to trust others. Kevin Mitnick, the hacker who served five years in prison for breaking into corporate computer systems in the 1990s, was notorious in this regard. After his release, he wrote a book extolling his exploits, many of which involved getting compliant people to hand over their passwords willingly.

Tell people you're Bob from IT, and they're pretty much willing to give up anything up to, and sometimes including, their Social Security numbers.

All this is by way of edging into the fascinating tale of little Semaj Booker of Seattle.

Seems Semaj, who the Washington Post reports is all of 9 years old and 4 feet, 9 inches tall, had upset his mom after stealing a car last week, driving it 90 mph while being chased by the cops, and then crashing it into a tree.

But that's only the beginning. He was carted back home in the custody of his mother. Apparently worried that he might be in a heap of trouble, he sneaked out of the house the next morning and made his way to Seattle-Tacoma International.

There, according to the story, "he single-handedly conned Southwest Airlines and the federal Transportation Security Administration into allowing him to board a flight to San Antonio via Phoenix."

Apparently, he told them he'd lost his boarding pass. Hey, who can say no to a little kid?

Predictably, a congressman is calling on the TSA to explain how this happened.

The kid, meanwhile, has one heck of an excuse for why his homework's late.

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