Teens demonstrate how to crack online passwords and more during Cyber Security Awareness Day

March 22, 2013|By Holly Shok |
  • Washington County Technical High School students Jason Shaffer, left, and Jeremy Frocke describe a computer program that can be used to restore computers to a safe state once they have been hacked. The school held a cyber security awareness day Friday.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Following in the footsteps of his grandfather whose life as a CIA agent was portrayed in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” 17-year-old Phil McField proved how to crack online passwords in fewer than five minutes Friday at Washington County Technical High School’s inaugural Cyber Security Awareness Day.

“In the art of infiltration, in stealing data (and) bringing it back to a secure location, my grandfather did that for about 30 or 40 years, and I’m kind of following in his footsteps involving technology and computers and cyber security,” said McField, a WCTHS senior who served as an extra in the film based on Antonio “Tony” Mendez’s experience during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979.

“Basically we can demonstrate to you how to use Google as a hacking devise, we can show you how to crack passwords in under five minutes, recovering your passwords or using them as a weapon, and keeping you aware of what’s out in the world that can hurt you,” McField said of himself and fellow senior 17-year-old John Hershey, who were offering demonstrations to groups of community members filing through the event.

“I guess if they can hack into our government buildings, they can hack into anything,” said onlooker Donna Bittinger, 69, of Hagerstown.

“Very informative — makes you a little nervous,” she added.

WCTHS computer repair and networking instructor David Long coordinated the event that was primarily comprised of the cyber security showcasings of 16 seniors who have taken computer repair and networking, CISCO Academy and cyber security classes.

“People are very nonchalant and casual about their networks at home and their data, their passwords — and the demonstrations that we have in the room today show kids with simple, downloadable and free tools can gain access to information that they shouldn’t have,” Long said.

Two of Long’s 11th-grade students additionally featured a project they will soon offer at a state-level competition.

Sixteen-year-olds Ken Gordon and Peter Crampton have worked for the past six months on, what Gordon termed, an “eavesdropping technique” to lift and capture information from a computer screen without using any wires.

“We’re high school kids, we don’t have the best resources, we’re not really brainiacs over at MIT and Cambridge, we don’t have the same resources that they do — but we were able to achieve this,” Crampton said. “Imagine what somebody with more time, more money, more effort and more knowledge could achieve.”

The duo’s instructor agreed.

“That’s probably the most spooky of all because you could gain access to information that you should not have,” Long said, noting his class once used a simple Google search to telephone a California woman and inform her that they had revealed her personal information and cyber passwords.

“Our country is being attacked as we speak. We’re actually spending more money on the war on cyber security as a country than we are on the war on drugs,” Long said, noting he plans to host the event at the school annually.

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