An Adelaide teenager who hacked Apple on two separate occasions in the hope that the tech giant would offer him a job has been spared a conviction in court. The boy, who is now 17, first hacked Apple’s secure computer system in December 2015 when he was just 13 years old, the ABC reports, and then again in early 2017. Alongside a teenage accomplice, he used his "high level of expertise" in IT to create false digital credentials, trick Apple's server into thinking he was a company employee, and ultimately download internal documents and data.
Magistrate David White did not record a conviction when the boy appeared before the Adelaide Youth Court and pleaded guilty to multiple computer hacking charges, though. Instead he gave him a $500 fine and placed him on a nine-month good behaviour bond and urged him to “use your gifts for good rather than evil.”
The teenage hacking prodigy first ran into serious trouble when the FBI caught wind of his actions and reported him to the Australian Federal Police. In court, his lawyer Mark Twiggs suggested the boy did not fully understand the seriousness of his crimes—given that “this offending started when my client was 13 years of age, a very young age"—and simply hacked Apple in the hope that the company might offer him a job. Mark explained that in Europe “a similar person got caught and they ended up getting employed by the company”, indicating that this had led the teen to think he could possibly do the same.
"He had no idea about the seriousness of the offence and hoped that when it was discovered that he might gain employment at this company,” the lawyer told the court, noting that Apple did not incur any financial nor intellectual loss from the hacks. "My client is remorseful,” he said. “He's got amazing skills in relation to this [and] he wants to use his talents for good."
Magistrate White agreed that the boy “is clearly someone who is a gifted individual when it comes to information technology.
“That being said,” he added, “those who have this advantage of being gifted doesn't give them the right to abuse that gift. The manner in which the world functions is one that is heavily reliant on computer technology and those who unlawfully interfere with those systems can do enormous amounts of damage."
When handing down his verdict, the magistrate addressed the young hacker directly. "You must remain on the straight and narrow and use your gifts for good rather than evil," he said. The boy’s accomplice was also spared a conviction.
In a statement issued to the ABC in relation to the hacking incident, Apple stressed that “we vigilantly protect our networks and have dedicated teams of information security professionals that work to detect and respond to threats. In this case, our teams discovered the unauthorised access, contained it, and reported the incident to law enforcement.
"We regard the data security of our users as one of our greatest responsibilities and want to assure our customers that at no point during this incident was their personal data compromised," they added. They failed to comment on the teenager’s employability prospects.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.