At his age, boys are just stepping into the fantasy world of Hogwarts and beginning to identify with the Wimpy Kid, but Reuben Paul has his eyes on the rain the green code rain of The Matrix. The third-grader is already an accomplished hacker, app developer, cybersecurity expert, and, not surprisingly, CEO of a game development firm, Prudent Games. In hacker circles, he is also a respected speaker, who shares his wisdom from the dais while standing on a chair hidden behind the lectern.
On Thursday, the smiling nine-year-old from Austin, Texas was back in action at Ground Zero Summit 2015, a meeting of cybersecurity experts and researchers, at one of the biggest hacker conferences in the world. Last year, he had delivered his keynote on November 14, Children’s Day, but this time he’s here as a ‘special ambassador’ for teaching cybersecurity to children and has a special address lined up.
The four-day summit that has brought together an army of experts started at The Ashok Hotel with an address by the chief guest, Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Drawing attention to the new threat of radicalization through social media, Singh said cybersecurity experts should try to stop it. He described the World Wide Web as the “fifth dimension of security” and pointed out that busting cybercrime is difficult as it involves locations across the world, different languages, cultures, and legal frameworks.
Paul, who is the youngest attendee, told TOI he cut his teeth in the field with ‘credential harvesting’, a technical term for stealing passwords. “With great hacking skills you get power, and with great power comes great responsibility,” he said, quoting his hero, Spider-Man. While Paul wants to become a “good cyberspy”, the venue was teeming with experts who have already earned their stripes.
One of the hackers said on condition of anonymity that he had started out by hacking his college’s system to know his grades in graduation. Another, Harsh Shah, hacked his college’s Wi-Fi and IT systems to block access to social media. Inderjeet, an ethical hacker, said he had found a security flaw in the online passbook printing tool of a bank.
Jiten Jain, CEO of the Indian Infosec Consortium, which organizes the summit, said, their objective is to have all the hackers and cyber experts under one umbrella for research on the country’s cybersecurity. Last year, they had found malware and viruses in many defence news sites.