The Daily Mail's coverage of Talk Talk hacker places the blame on videogames, obviously | PCGamesN

The Daily Mail's coverage of Talk Talk hacker places the blame on videogames, obviously


The UK tabloids haven't changed their minds about the relationship between videogames and crime - or if they have, it's only as far as extending the causality of a broader range of crimes to Call Of Duty et al. Daily Mail's coverage of the teenage hacker who accessed private data of comms giant Talk Talk points the finger squarely at his gaming habit, painting the 15-year-old as a "violent videogame addict."

The un-named teen, currently under arrest for the Talk Talk cyber attack, aspired to become a professional Call Of Duty player and went by the handle 'Vicious,' the Mail reveals. 

The publication also extrapolates from the boy's blog activity that he is "obsessed with violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto." 

"From the age of ten," the article continues, "the youngster, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has spent hours playing violent video games such as Call of Duty, Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto – all of which are unsuitable for young children because of their graphic nature."

One element the Mail does not introduce, however, is that of parental responsibility. The games in question didn't materialise in the house by sheer chance, nor did the games industry will them into that home. It also seems unlikely that a boy of ten would have been sold the games if he turned up at a shop and slapped them down on a counter. The subject of how the hacker gained access to those games is one the article doesn't touch on.

The piece makes numerous references to the boy being reclusive, and rarely spotted outdoors or with other, informed largely by statements from neighbours.

It describes Call Of Duty - the entire franchise, rather than a specific title - using the words "Ghoulish violence," and uses "criminal mayhem" to describe Grand Theft Auto. Again, the entire franchise, rather than any game in particular. Firstly, that's a bit like me referring to The Daily Mail as simply 'tabloid press.' Secondly, please feel free to assure everyone that you've played the games you offer such strong editorial comment on, Daily Mail. 

The interesting thing about The Mail's coverage of this story is that it extends the usual 'violent criminal was obsessed with videogames" narrative to simply "criminal was obsessed with videogames." Previously the implied argument was that the individual in question was in some way mimicking the violent acts they perpetrated in violent games - that argument becomes a lot less clear in the case of the Talk Talk hacker. 

Original story: Mail Online.

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Dr Loxley avatarDog Pants avatarShriven avatarAnAuldWolf avatarKeefBaker avatarBelimawr avatar
Dr Loxley Avatar
2 Years ago

In all fairness I do feel like I was playing Daily Mail Bingo when I read this article this morning:

Single Mother? Check

Unemployed? Check

Council Estate? Check

Suspended from school? Check

Video games? Double & triple check!

Not English? Check

The list goes on.

It's as if the article wanted to lay the blame at every single target group that the 'daily mail readership' dislike, all the while ignoring certain things that I felt really needed to be pointed out:

So he was up all night playing games? He's 15! Of course he is!

Unnecessary quotes about the kid being 'not street smart' or just not 'smart' in general? Clearly this is just in there for the sake of it as if he did genuinely bring down their networks by himself, that requires not just smarts but also a skill set! When this kid finishes whatever punishment he is given, if he plays his cards right he will probably end up working for Symantic providing them with cyber security and getting paid a tonne for it!

Lastly TalkTalk have been hacked twice before as it reveals, this is the third time. At what point do we stop blaming the hackers and point to the company who clearly have done nothing to boost their clearly inefficient cyber security?

Dog Pants Avatar
2 Years ago

I'd like to think security companies have moved on from hiring hackers. Integrity is a big part of security, and in that respect he's woefully lacking. I agree with your last point though - while it's impossible to cover all angles, this wasn't a state-sponsored attacker or well funded syndicate, it was an old school script kiddie. That smells like lack of investment by Talk Talk - financial, management, or both.

AnAuldWolf Avatar
2 Years ago

Usually I'm in two minds about these kinds of things, but not this time. As unfortunate as it might be, when it comes to hacking just about any punk kid can run a script. It's the price we pay for a free Internet, I suppose. If I were to consider the alternatives, I'd still say I preferred the hackers. I even find the UK government's current obsession with filtering unsettling.

It's usually violence that has me in two minds. It often does because video games news sites (not so much PC Games N from what I've seen, RPS is often the biggest troll) tend to try to shut down valid, peer reviewed, careful studies which do suggest a rise in aggression in children and adults who play video games which are both violent and contemporary. I stress the and.

And more questionable studies which haven't been peer reviewed are hailed as the saviours of PC gaming by such Internet evangelists. The problem here is that the truth lies somewhere between, and if we can't admit this then it's going to go very badly for us as the evidence keeps mounting up in favour of violence in video games causing violence. I think a strong degree of impartiality is needed when covering these things.

As I said, this doesn't apply here. I'm with Phil. I don't think video games cause this because it's just so easy for any punk kid to do something like this. If the fault lies with anyone? It lies with TalkTalk for having weak counter-intrusion security systems in place. Though even if they did, that security may still have intentional holes, so the blame may lie higher up than that (I'll get back to this later). It really depends on whether this was negligence on their part or another case of intentional security flaws they couldn't have accounted for.

I love Sony, but I chewed them out a while back too for this. The hack that was used to get the details (including credit cards) of so many PSN users was so painfully simple and easy that I could've done it. It was through known, patchable flaws so that was negligence on Sony's part. The only thing that would've stopped anyone would be higher intelligence and a moral compass. If you're stupid enough to not be able to see the consequences for your actions and you're a bit of a sociopath, though? You'd find it far, far too easy to break into almost anything on the Internet.

So whilst I don't want to see spying and filtering on the Internet increase (which is why I'm avoiding Windows 10 right now), I do want to see better security. It's hard to have better security though when you have people like Microsoft (you should read up on Microsoft's OpenSSH parody) and the NSA building purposeful security flaws (back doors, easy ways to break encryption, et al) into things which actually make them easier to hack.

Oh, I wish I was joking or wearing a tinfoil hat. Ten years ago I might have been one to say someone with those claims was wearing one. The amount of evidence piling up recently though about this is ridiculous. I mean, if you've read even anything about the NSA's activities, you'd know what I mean.

The thing is is that you aren't safe because governments and corporations want your security to be weak. So stuff like this happens.

So, TL;DR: Violent kids MIGHT be the fault of video games, depending. Hacker kids are the fault of corporate negligence allowing known security holes to go unpatched or the fault of those who build purposeful security flaws into their own stuff.

I hope i didn't water this down a bit too much and I hope I didn't make it too technical. I wanted to try and write this in a way that most could understand without being patronising. That's difficult. Sorry if I failed.

Shriven Avatar
2 Years ago

........Where is a rogue missile when you need one?

KeefBaker Avatar
2 Years ago

The biggest tragedy here is that there are still people who think the Daily Mail is a newspaper.

Belimawr Avatar
2 Years ago

Points for tennant on have I got news for you making a joke about this, saying it makes him proud to be british since here people playing game take down companies unlike in america he would have just shot up his school.