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Autistic Teen Hacker Stuns Ex-School Superintendent: "Are We Failing Our Gifted Kids?"

Autistic Teen Hacker Stuns Ex-School Superintendent:


I was startled to recently learn that a group of teenagers, including an 18-year-old with autism, used simple devices like a fire stick and cell phone to hack major corporations like Rockstar Games and Nvidia. This caused me, drawing from my experience overseeing a large school district, to question whether schools are adequately preparing students to use their incredible technical skills for good.

I argue that since these students figured out how to breach multi-million dollar companies on their own, schools have a responsibility to nurture these talents positively. If students have the capacity for advanced hacking, educators should have the knowledge and skills to mentor them towards ethical careers in technology. However, I worry that most districts would not even recognize these gifted students’ potential, let alone guide it constructively.

Ultimately, this “wake up call” incident highlights the urgent need for school systems to value and develop students’ technological capabilities. Otherwise, youth may resort to damaging criminal hacking out of lack of support and direction. I call on schools to open up opportunities for students to use their gifts to better society.


Recently, I heard an incredible story about some seventeen and eighteen year olds who were part of an inner national hacking team.

It's really incredible.

One of these young men, eighteen years old, he was already in police custody when at his hotel without a laptop using an Amazon buyer stick, a hotel TV, and his cell phone, he was able to hack into a multimillion dollar video game development company.

And court documents revealed that this young man has a diagnosis of autism.

So that really made me think as a former public school administrator and superintendent in Palm Springs Unified, it made me ask the question.

Are we really preparing our students to use their credible skills and technology in positive ways for good. He didn't learn how to do that in school.

He knows how to do it. So what's the school's responsibility?

Well, as a school district, if a can teach themselves how to do that. We certainly should be teaching them how to do it and do it in a positive way.

This really is a very sad case that's going to result in many, many years of incarceration, for some of the young people involved in this hacking situation.

But again, as a public school educator and one who's talking a lot about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and training teachers in technology. It really gave me pause. Our school district every year educated over twenty thousand students.

We weren't teaching them how to use an Amazon fire stick mobile phone and a hotel TV to hack into some of the largest technology companies in the world.

But our kids have that potential And if they have that potential, then definitely we want our educators to have that knowledge and skill and potential as well, not to do hacking to hurt things or be disruptive, but to think about the power of technology, and to think about careers that this young man his his colleagues and friends really could have channeled that into. And I think the direction of public school educators on a daily basis, talking to students about their skills, and about potential uses in positive ways that really will for their society and help improve the world for all of us is our responsibility.

I know it sounds like just a story about a student hacking into a video game company or a young man hacking into a video game company, but really it's a wake up call.

It's a wake up call for school districts to ask ourselves.

If this young man was a student in our district, would we even have known he had this skill or potential.

And if we did know, were our educators prepared to take him to the next level a positive way, not in a way that would again cause tens and tens of millions of dollars of damages some of the largest companies, a large phone company, Nvidia, which makes, very expensive computer graphic and AI technology.

They were also hacked by this group and then rock star games, which is really how the story caught my attention.

Something to think about.

If our students know how to do it, are we sure that our educators know how to do it.

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