The Old Bailey has heard how a teenage hacker used a mix of computer skills and social engineering to torment several top-level US intelligence officials, even posting a message that read: “I own you,” on one of their TV sets.
Kane Gamble, who was 15 at the time of the offences in 2015 – 2016, targeted CIA director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, as well as senior FBI figures.
On one occasion, during his campaign to terrorise the senior officials, he sent Mr Johnson a photo of his daughter and said he ‘would f*** her’. He also rang his wife, leaving a voicemail message saying: “Hi Spooky, am I scaring you?”
John Lloyd Jones, prosecuting, said: “This defendant bragged that he could listen to Mr Johnson’s voicemails and send texts to Johnson’s phone and that he gained access to Johnson’s Comcast account.
“Kane Gamble explained how he had got access to Johnson’s phone by doing, it involves the collecting of personal information and using this information to hack into the account.
“He also said that he had gained access to his call logs and this information was posted on the internet.
“On 18 July 2015 multiple calls were made to Johnson’s wife Mrs DeMarco, she received a voice mail over her mobile phone that said ‘Hi Spooky, am I scaring you?’.”
Gamble harassed his victims online, releasing personal information and bombarding them with calls and messages. He also downloaded pornography onto their computers and took control of their iPads and TV screens, the court heard.
His harassment of the Giuliano family was so extreme that they were forced to seek protection and to have an armed guard placed at their home.
Vonna Weir Heaton, the former intelligence executive of the US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, had her social media accounts broken into by Gamble, who sent messages whilst masquerading as her.
At one point during an online conversation, he said that he had considered not sharing any more information ‘because it put lives at risk, but then I thought they are killing innocent people every day’, the court heard.
At the time of the offences, Gamble was part of a group called ‘Crackas With Attitude’.
Mr Lloyd-Jones added it was a common misconception that the group were hackers when actually they used ‘social engineering’ to gain access to emails, phones, computers and law enforcement portals.
“It involves manipulating people, invariably call centre or help desk staff, into permitting acts or divulging confidential information,” the prosecutor said.
The schoolboy was finally rumbled in February 2016, when the FBI and secret service became so concerned about the information he had accessed that they immediately contacted police in Britain and had him arrested at his home in Leicestershire.
Gamble, whose mother won £1.6m on the National Lottery, pleaded guilty to ten offences under the computer misuse act.