By Carin Smith
Reuben Paul looks like a regular 13-year old child, but don’t let that fool you.
This hacking whiz kid delivered his first presentation at a hacker conference at the tender age of 8, demonstrating how to hack into a fully patched Windows machine.
He lives in the US and has his own non-profit organisation called CyberShaolin.
CyberShaolin was born as more and more children and their parents started contacting Reuben due to his increasing media exposure at conferences.
According to the CyberShaolin website, its vision is “to educate and equip the current and next generation with cybersecurity and technology knowledge and skills, empowering them to create a safe and secure cyber world”.
“I don’t think I have a lot of talent. I just research and learn a lot,” he told Fin24 on the sidelines of a recent information session by global cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab in Cape Town, South Africa.
At the event, Reuben demonstrated how easy it is for him to hack into a drone and take over its control.
“If anybody is motivated and works hard, they could do hacking just like me.”
For Reuben the chief cyber danger the world faces is that nothing in cyber space is ever 100% secure. At the same time, one has to always try and maximise protection.
“Hackers will always try to exploit you, but you can try to minimise the risk. Everyone should be educated about cyber security,” he said.
“We live in the app generation and technology will not stop, it will just get bigger and bigger.”
3 T’s for cyber security
Reuben follows what he calls “the 3 T’s” for cyber security.
The first is not to “talk” too much. This means not sharing too much of your personal information on social media.
His second “T” is not to “take”. By that he means not to click just on links.
Last but not least, he says not to “trust”. “Everyone in the cyber world is a cyber stranger,” he explains.
“If you have a passion for cyber technology, then try to learn the best possible way, but remember be safe online by not falling prey to cyber danger. Use basic defences like strong passwords.”
He further suggests not using WiFi and location-based services unless you really have to, and to keep Bluetooth turned off if you are not using it.
When it comes to online gaming, he suggests not to use your real name and birthday. Rather create a digital persona using a fake online name and never give your real birthday, since data can be leaked.
Black hat, white hat
While so-called “black hat” hackers use their cyber security skills to the detriment of humanity, Reuben says he is part of the so-called “white hat” hackers who want to act for the good of humanity.
“I use my skills to educate others about cyber security and how it can be built better,” he says.
“I already have all that I need and there are no bad causes I want to support.”
His ideal world would be one without cyber attacks, where everyone is safe in cyber space and “not preyed on by digital dangers”.
“A lot of kids don’t know what cyber security really is. Awareness is about knowing how to use technology. Kids don’t really pay attention to security when they are on the internet,” says Reuben.
“We learn a lot about robotics, but we don’t learn a lot about cyber security. Everything will be connected in future, so kids must learn about cyber security already now.”