British court (illustrative)
British court (illustrative)iStock

A 15-year-old British teenager accessed top secret US military reports by impersonating a CIA director.

Acting from his Leicestershire home, Kane Gamble posed as CIA Chief John Brennan, gaining access to passwords, personal information, contact lists, security details, and sensitive documents regarding US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gamble's security attacks occurred between June 2015 and February 2016. In them, he targeted Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, FBI Director Mark Giuliano, former US President Barack Obama's Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and others. In addition to the security hacks, Gamble also harassed his victims and their families.

Impersonating Clapper, Gamble directed Clapper's calls to be diverted to the "Free Palestine" organization, and used Clapper's email to contact additional officials. He claimed to have the names of 1,000 FBI staffers.

Some of the information was later used to order an armed SWAT team to deploy to the home of Obama's science and technology adviser John Holdren.

In the case of Johnson, Gamble listened to his voicemails, sent texts from his phone, and harassed his wife. He also persuaded call handlers at an internet giant that he was Brennan, in an attempt to gain access to the then-CIA director's computers. Gamble succeeded in accessing Brennan's AOL account, emails, contacts, and iCloud storage account, and took control of Brennan's wife's iPad.

Gamble also succeeded in accessing the private calls and emails of White House Deputy National Security Adviser Avril Haines and FBI Special Agent Amy Hess, and downloading videos to Hess' computer.

"This has to be the biggest hack, I have access to all the details the Feds use for background checks," court documents showed him as boasting at the time.

When the FBI changed their system password, Gamble regained access by convincing an FBI helpdesk that he was Giuliano.

According to a court hearing, the US Department of Homeland Security paid $40,000 to resolve the security issue and suffered "substantial reputational damage."

Prior to his arrest in 2016, Gamble access the Department of Justice's network using details gained from a former employee. He posted details related to 20,000 FBI staff members, over 9,000 DHA officers, and an offshore drilling gig, adding, "This is Free Palestine" and "Long live Palestine."

Gamble, now 18, was arrested at the FBI's request in February 2016. In October 2017, Gamble pleaded guilty to ten charges, but his lawyers are claiming he has high-functioning autism and at the time of the hacks was at the mental level of a 12- or 13-year-old.

Meanwhile, Gamble admitted that the hacks themselves were "kind of easy."

According to Prosecutor John Lloyd-Jones QC, Gamble and his group "used something known as social engineering, which involves socially manipulating people - call centers or help desks - into performing acts or divulging confidential information. The group frequently bragged on social media and subjected the victims to online harassment and abuse," the Daily Mail reported.

"He accessed some extremely sensitive accounts referring to, among other things, military operations and intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran."

Lloyd-Jones quoted Gamble, who founded Crackas With Attitude (CWA) in 2015, as telling a journalist, "'It all started by me getting more and more annoyed at how corrupt and cold-blooded the US government are. So I decided to do something about it.'"