Meet Reuben Paul; This 9 Year Old Hacker Is Changing The World, One App At A Time

Rueben paul speaker keynote hacker 9 8 years old ceo prudent games cyber security shaolin

At 4’5” and 54 pounds, 9-year-old Reuben Paul doesn’t look like your stereotypical hacker. During the day he attends a Texas public charter school, Harmony School of Science, takes Kung Fu, gymnastics and swim lessons and loves spending time with his friends. But at night he transforms into a cyber security researcher aka “hacker” with the ability to hack into smartphones and systems of unsuspecting victims.

Just last month, Reuben demonstrated his expertise in cyber attack methods at BSides, an Austin, Texas security conference. By injecting malicious code into what seemed like a legitimate app, which he crafted live on stage, the 3rd grader managed to pwn an Android Phone, dump all of its contacts and call logs, run a video stream from the device and geolocate a user’s location.

Despite his cyber attack savvy, however, Reuben is no criminal. In fact, he hopes when people see him use his skills, their eyes will be opened to how important cyber security is for them and for their children.

"With all the data breaches, cyberbullying and other kinds of attacks happening on the Internet, it’s important for us to teach kids and educate them on the dangers so they can protect themselves,” Reuben told iDigitalTimes.

But how does a nine-year-old manage to become so knowledgeable about cyber security? According to his father, Mano Paul, Reuben’s passion for cyber security began at a young age and has never stopped growing.

“I remember when he was five, him using words like firewall and I was totally surprised that a kid could understand and pick up those things,” Reuben’s father told iDigitalTimes.  Mano Paul also works in the cyber security field as a CEO of SecuRisk Solutions, a company that focuses on information security training, consulting and custom product development.

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Reuben’s interest in cybersecruity began when he was in 1st grade. When asked by his 1st grade teacher, what he wanted to be when he grows up, he drew on a piece of paper, "chilling” out while his SQL injection hack went through the cloud, through a firewall full of holes, and pwning a computer on the other end. Photo: YouTube

Recognizing his son’s potential Mano Paul began teaching Reuben cyber security concepts, while also introducing him to the wonderful world of programming.

“At age five I introduced him to Scratch, and then by six we were looking at real world programing and security concepts,” Mano Paul said.

When Reuben was in second grade, his Gifted and Talented teacher assigned a project, which required him to design a learning game to share with the class. While other students walked in with hand drawn board and card games, Reuben showed up to his class with a full-blown app he had written called "Shuriken Math" which helps kids learn Math using a ninja throwing shurikens (stars) at the right answer. 

The school liked the game so much, they encouraged him to have it published on the Apple App store. It was then that Reuben, with the help of his parents, decided to begin Prudent Games, an app and game development company, of which Reuben is CEO. Prudent Games is a company that builds entertaining games and apps that are also educational in nature, so that a kid can learn while they play. Shuriken Math was originally written in Objective-C as a prototype. It is currently being rewritten by Reuben in Apple’s new programming language Swift for release to the App Store at the end of summer 2015.

After his debut app, Reuben's skills began to attract the attention of others -- namely Hord Tipton, the then executive director of (ISC)2 . When Tipton saw Reuben's skills he suggested the boy begin writing apps that could teach Cybersecurity. With the help of Mano Paul, Reuben wrote his first cybersecurity app, Cracker Proof ,which teaches kids about building strong passwords in a fun and educational way. 

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Cracker Proof is the first of several cyber security related gaming apps Reuben Paul is releasing on the Apple app store. Photo: Prudent Games

“Cracker Proof is already in the Apple app store and there are more apps coming soon,” said Reuben. Reuben's next expected release is a cyber security game called "Crack Me If You Can," which teaches about bruteforce attacks.

In order to share what he was learning, Reuben applied to DerbyCon, a renowned hacker conference. He soon received a call from Dave Kennedy, founder of DerbyCon, who was eager to accept the young hacker's submission.  It was there that Reuben made his debut Cyber Security presentation titled “InfoSec From The Mouth Of Babes.” During the presentation Reuben demonstrated how easily he could pwn a fully patched Windows system, getting root shell access to it, using social engineering techniques.  

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Reuben Paul brings down the house with his DerbyCon presentation Photo: Twitter

 

The word of Reuben’s cyber security skills and mission soon spread within the Information Security community. Before long, Reuben was being called on to keynote at various events in the United States and around the world. Besides his debut talk at DerbyCon, in September 2014, he has since keynoted at several industry leading information security conferences such as (ISC)2 Security Congress, Hou.Sec.Con, Ground Zero InfoSec Summit in New Delhi, India and BSides, Austin.

Reuben’s most recent security conference appearance was at RSA 2015. RSA is one of the world's largest Information Security conferences with over 30,000 professionals attending. Here Reuben co-keynoted with Chris Hoff, the CTO of Juniper Network, who unveiled Reuben from within a server box as The ‘Real’ Next Generation of Security. He will also be keynoting at Hack In The Box Haxpo in Amsterdam on May 28, 2015.

 

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Chris Hoff unveiled Reuben Paul as "the future of cybersecurity" last month during the RSA keynote. Photo: RSA

“There’s a lot of good traction we are getting, and the win is that there is so much more awareness being raised to the seriousness of cybersecurity dangers” said Mano Paul. “Reuben is speaking and people are starting to pay attention. They see this kid who is so young able to understand complex security issues and demonstrate hacks with ease that it is making them realize that the world of security is something serious we need to pay attention to.”

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9 year old hacker Reuben Paul is making waves in the security community. Photo: Prudent Games

But Reuben’s plans for educating kids and the world about cyber security don’t stop there. As Reuben’s knowledge and passion has grown so has his concern for other kids’ cyber safety. When he saw that teens were being bullied and some even committing suicide as a result of that, he realized that he wanted to do something about it.

 “We live in a world with new technology and millions of apps which kids like me use. We need to teach kids to use it carefully and securely, because, right now schools don’t teach it,” Reuben said.

The nine-year-old CEO is currently working on a larger program and curriculum for use by kids, parents and teachers alike, the beginnings which can be found at cybershaolin.org

“We’re seeing quite a bit of awareness about security issues now,” Mano Paul said, “but there is still a disconnect.  Schools haven’t yet made this part of a curriculum. Computer education within schools today are very basic word processing and PowerPoint presentations -- and there is nothing wrong with that, but I think cyber security needs to become a kind of core competency of every educational system within the US and worldwide. Things are changing now but most teachers probably don’t even know where to turn for guidance on these things,” said Mano Paul. “The CyberShaolin program that Reuben is working on will include educational videos and a way to gamify cyber security so that any kid can learn, but it will also be simple for teachers to use within classroom as well.”

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"I want to be a business man by day and a cyber spy by night," Reuben shared as his dream job. Photo: Twitter

Reuben will be keynoting at the HITB Haxpo in Amsterdam May 26-29. To learn more about his upcoming presentation, visit the Haxpo website here. Or to find out about Reuben’s mission and how you can support it, visit cybershaolin.org. You can also follow Reuben on Twitter and give him a shout out at his handle @RAPst4r .

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Cammy Harbison - Tech Writer/Reporter For iDigitalTimesFor More OSX, iOS, Jailbreak And Infosec NewsFollow Cammy on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus Send tips to c.harbison@idigitaltimes.comGPG/PGP Key ID: 0x56E784D9

 

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