The world of hacking draws both young and old, veterans and amateurs. While professional and elite hackers prepare their exploits and techniques to penetrate a system, those new to hacking use others' code to annoy a particular target. These newbies are called script kiddies. Despite their inexperience, newbies still pose a formidable threat. Script kiddies were among the members of the Lapsus$ cybercriminal group busted by the London police. This article will give a quick walkthrough on how script kiddies work and the threats they pose.
What is a Script Kiddie?
A script kiddie, or skiddie, is a colloquial term defining amateurs who try to gain access to IT systems and devices illegally for fun or monetary benefit. Rather than developing sophisticated tools or exploits from scratch, they use pre-made programs or scripts written by others to target a system or user. They might be programmers but do not have experience writing complex exploits to target a vulnerability. They tend to use open-source malware programs and scripts to target different systems.
Script kiddies also tend to be indiscriminate and try to compromise any systems on the internet they can reach. The term "script kiddie" has been around since the 1990s. Although many techniques and scripts executed by script kiddies do not work, they could be dangerous as they keep trying different tactics to compromise a system. They might lack in-depth knowledge of technologies, but they keep doing unusual hacking and exploring sensitive things for fun and excitement.
Unfortunately, some script kiddies also engage in cyberstalking or bullying. These malicious individuals are often mistakenly labelled as "hackers."
History of the script kiddie
In the mid-90s, hacking became a buzzword on the internet. The term "script kiddie" first popped up in hacker zines, forums, message boards, blogs, and Internet Relay Chats (IRCs). Professional programmers and expert tech enthusiasts used to apply the term for novice hackers who download tools and programs without understanding their actual working.
1993: "k0deZ kiddies" appeared on an internet messaging platform called Yabbs.
1996: The hacker blog "LiveOverflow" used the term script kiddie for some Unix exploit.
1998. The hacking magazine "Phrack" mentioned "script kiddie behaviour" in one article.
Characteristics of a script kiddie
All hackers and cybercriminals are initially script kiddies. Script kiddies are young, inexperienced hackers who want to create chaos through technology and hacking. Recognizing these untrained and unskilled hackers is not complicated. We can identify script kiddies by the following characteristics.
Existing pre-made scripts and exploits: Script kiddies use pre-existing scripts and exploit available in online repositories like GitHub, hacking forums, or programming forums like StackOverflow. These unskilled hackers use online videos and content to learn how to use these open-source scripts to target a system.
Unsophisticated hacking: Script kiddies do not have complete knowledge of technology and hacking. Thus, they do not know how to cover their tracks after committing a hack using open-source scripts and programs. So, enterprise professionals with expertise in cybersecurity can identify or track them easily.
External motivation: These novices fall under the beginners' cybercriminal category who get motivated by simple movies or web series on hacking. They start hacking by emulating the movie's actors. Other motivations that trigger script kiddies to hack into others’ systems are fun, excitement, attention, or revenge.
Basic hacking: Script kiddies do not understand the actual working of a code or script. That is why they cannot develop high-level exploits. But since they know how to download and execute scripts, they can still be dangerous to enterprises and individuals.
Should enterprises remain vigilant about script kiddies?
Although we know that script kiddies do not have the technical expertise to craft their code, they are fast learners. The ransomware cyber-attack group Lapsus$ had teenagers and script kiddies in its ranks. They learn from experts to hack systems and push malware into enterprise systems.
According to Bruce Schneier (cryptography expert and public-interest technologist), script kiddies are using the latest AI technologies like Chat-GPTs to develop AI-generated scripts to compromise systems. Despite Bruce's claims that AI-generated malicious scripts aren't yet successful, it is only a matter of time before they become more effective. As technology evolves and AI continues to learn how to create better scripts, these dangerous programs will eventually be able to wreak havoc on our systems and networks.
Keeping that in mind, enterprises should implement security monitoring tools and keep firewalls patched. They should also leverage Identity and Access Management (IAM) systems, anti-malware, and other Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions to protect enterprise networks and endpoint devices from script kiddies.
While script kiddie attacks are not always effective, enterprises should remain mindful of such threats because modern script kiddies collaborate with expert hackers and learn new techniques quickly.
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