According to The Age newspaper, the boy’s lawyer told the children’s court in Melbourne on Thursday that his client had hacked into the Apple network on multiple occasions over one year because he admired the company.
The boy, who studies in a private school, stored the saved information in a folder titled “hacky hack hack”, the newspaper said.
Despite the court being told that the teenager had downloaded 90GB of secure files and accessed customer accounts, Apple – the world’s most valuable company – has denied that customers were affected.
The company said it identified the security breach and notified the FBI, which in turn referred the matter to the Australian federal police.
“At Apple, we vigilantly protect our networks and have dedicated teams of information security professionals that work to detect and respond to threats,” a company spokesman told Guardian Australia in a statement.
“In this case, our teams discovered the unauthorised access, contained it, and reported the incident to law enforcement. We regard the data security of our users as one of our greatest responsibilities and want to assure our customers that at no point during this incident was their personal data compromised.”
The Age said customer data had been accessed, and that the boy managed to obtain customers’ authorised keys – their login access.
The AFP searched the teenager’s home last year and seized two computers. The serial numbers of the devices matched those of the devices that had accessed the internal systems, a prosecutor told the court.
The boy also shared details of his hacking with members of a WhatsApp group.
Apple would not specify to Guardian Australia what information had been accessed by the boy, or how they identified the breach.
The boy pleaded guilty and will return to the court for sentencing in September.
Dr Suelette Dreyfus, a privacy expert from from the University of Melbourne’s school of computing and information systems, urged against a punitive sentence.
“I have researched a number of teen hacker cases internationally,” Dreyfus said.
“Almost all these teens grew out of the technology boundary-pushing of their youth, and then went on to live useful lives and contributing to society. Putting them in prison is often a waste of that potential.
“Young people often make mistakes when they are exploring and rule-breaking especially online – including boasting about their exploits. It’s not right, but for tech teens, it can be a part of growing up ... there’s usually a really worried teen and family at the end of this sort of court case.”
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