Teen on hacking charges

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With just a few touches of the keyboard, he can create absolute havoc.

Reuben - not his real name, because he is facing computer hacking-related charges in Auckland's Youth Court - is a new breed of digital delinquent: young, smart and with the power to unlock all your secrets.

His passion for the internet started at the age of 6.

"I did lots of wagging from primary schools and intermediate schools to stay home and work on the computer," he told the Herald on Sunday.

Reuben, now 16, doesn't go to school any more - he left his last school Auckland Grammar after a term because, as he says: "I didn't fit in." Since then he has completed numerous Microsoft courses. "That's easy, but school work is so boring it is not worth doing, but I know I have to do it sometime."

So now he is slowly working through the NCEA via correspondence, leaving him plenty of time to surf the internet "26 hours a day", he jokes.

He is reluctant to talk about exactly what he does, only saying he spends a lot of time chatting to friends.

But in just a few short years, he has gained notoriety for his online activities - and learned a great deal.

For example, he has managed to become the director of five companies, despite being under the age of 18. It was easy, he says. He just filled in the forms and sent them away, and no one in the Companies Office queried his identity or his age.

Now Reuben is accused of exposing flaws in Telecom's cellphone and landline message systems that police say saw him access the voicemail of police, defence staff and politicians, including Auckland mayor Dick Hubbard.

He has been charged with the unauthorised access of a computer and will appear in the Auckland Youth Court on July 14.

He is also accused of using his computer smarts to set up a company which obtained the management rights to a $1 million-plus radio frequency mistakenly deregistered by Sky Television.

On that, he is facing charges brought by the National Enforcement Unit of the Ministry of Economic Development. He also appears on those charges on July 14.

The unit declined to comment on the case. Reuben also won't comment on specifics, but he claims he is not a hacker, and has not been being deliberately malicious.

Rather, he was just letting the public know how easy it was to gain access to information on the internet. "If I shouldn't be in there, why is it so easy to get in?"

By Adrienne Kohler
The New Zealand Herald