Thirty-one year old accused hacker Lauri Love, who lives with his parents in Britain was ordered last week to be extradited to the United States to face charges that he hacked into the computers of numerous high-profile victims including the Federal Reserve, the Department of Defense, NASA and even the FBI. One thing that makes his case unique is that Love has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. However, a hacker having autism may not be as unusual as you might think. Recent research tends to show that many people with autism have a particular aptitude for computer technology and many autistic people are active in online gaming forums where they may come into contact with cybercriminals seeking to exploit their skills. Other autistic people may see hacking as just another online game and not be fully aware of the consequences.
The fact that such high profile government agencies such as the Federal Reserve, the Department of Defense, NASA and the FBI have been so vulnerable to hackers, even relatively unsophisticated hackers is not particularly comforting. Cybersecurity is an essential element of the functioning of the federal government and it presently is not as good as it should be. In July, President Obama released his first Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy in an effort to “identify, recruit, develop, retain, and expand the pipeline of the best, brightest, and most diverse cybersecurity talent for Federal service and for our Nation.” This is just the latest action by the Obama administration which has been taking steps to increase cybersecurity since 2009. For the most part, the new federal rules have been slow to transform the federal government’s cybersecurity culture, but hopefully, as the seriousness of cyberthreats become increasingly more apparent, change will be more forthcoming.