Why Did a Teen Hack the National Intelligence Director?

Image via Medill DC / Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Teenage hackers running rampant through national security networks are common in movies, but that cliche has become all too real after it turns out that a teen hacked the online personal accounts of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The DNI has said it knew about the hack, according to Motherboard, and is dealing with it. Clapper’s hacker may have been the same teen who hacked into CIA director John Brennan’s personal account a few months ago.

“Cracka,” the hacker name used by the teen, claims to be in high school and that the hacks are to protest problems he has has with U.S. policy. Apparently he used social engineering to get access to the accounts by tricking Verizon into giving him access. Once he could log in as Brennan, he got all of the calls to Brennan’s house forwarded to the headquarters of the Free Palestine Movement.

While the hacks are certainly serious, it’s different from when hackers gain access to federal agencies. The personal accounts of both directors have enough information to cause some mischief for them, but it’s not as though they put sensitive data on their personal accounts. Concerns about whether Hillary Clinton did so while as Secretary of State have animated long investigations, but unless Clapper Brennan turns out to have used their own personal accounts to discuss classified information, this is more of a prank that the hacker is using to draw attention to their cause. It’s effective in that regard, but not a cause for national security concerns.