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A child hacker shows flaw in video game

by Kelly MacNeil on August 9, 2011

At the first DefCon Kids conference, part of DefCon 19, a 10-year-old hacker stepped forward to explain the flaws in a video game. The girl, whose real name was not revealed, goes by the pseudonym of CyFi. She originally discovered the bug in January, when she became bored with the actual pace of the game. 

"It was hard to make progress in the game, because it took so long for things to grow. So I thought, 'Why don't I just change the time?'" she told CNET.com. She didn't say which games were affected, but most think that one of them may be Farmville, which takes hours for users to plant and grow crops. Accelerating the clock could have a huge effect on how big a player's farm could grow.

She is already a state-ranked skiier in California, an artist who has performed an improv piece in front of 1,000 people and a Girl Scout, so when CyFi presented the bug to about 100 people, she didn't appear to be nervous beforehand, the news source reports.

The mechanics behind the bug itself were simple – she just manually advanced the phone or tablet's clock. The game would register the real-world time as hours into the future and the plants would respond accordingly. The only issue is that there are detection methods to see if players are tampering with the clock. CyFi got through this barrier by making small adjustments to the clock or disconnecting the WiFi connection.

DefCon Kids offered $100 to the young hacker who could find these kinds of bugs in a 24-hour period. The event was meant for children aged 8 to 16. Classes and workshops helped children learn everything from Google Hacking to social engineering and coding. 

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