National

Updated: May 19, 2017

Texas student, 11, hacks smart toy, wows security experts in Europe

Reuben Paul
Reuben Paul

By Melissa B. Taboada

American-Statesman Staff

AUSTIN, Texas —

Austin, Texas, fifth grader Reuben Paul this week gave cybersecurity experts an important lesson: any connected smart toy can be weaponized.

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The 11-year-old Harmony School of Science Austin student on Tuesday hacked into his smart toy teddy bear and first turned on and off the LED, then proceeded to stealthily flip on the microphone of the teddy bear, transforming it into a spying device and recording the audience of security experts attending an international conference in the Netherlands.

“From airplanes to automobiles, from smartphones to smart homes, anything or any toy can be part of the Internet of Things,” Reuben told the crowd at the One conference in Hague, according to The Guardian. “From terminators to teddy bears, anything or any toy can be weaponized.”

Reuben, who has more than 2,000 followers on Twitter, says he hopes his message at the One Conference 2017 was clear: “Adults, please mutually secure your things by cooperation now so we kids have a safe and secure future :-).” He also said on Twitter that he knows which hacks are good or bad because, “Mama says, good hackers always listen to their mama :-) Good hackers don’t go to jail. Teach by sharing whatever you learn!”

Reuben, who has been featured in various publications, including Fortune and Security Week, is enrolled in a coding course that is offered to all fifth graders at Harmony School of Science.

Reuben, a devout Christian who routinely quotes Scripture in his tweets, demonstrates success in various other ways. He began martial arts training when he was 3 years old, and at age 7, he became the youngest American to receive the Shaolin Do Kung Fu black belt. With his father, security strategist Mano Paul, he runs CyberShaolin, which develops and publishes content on cybersecurity and technology to both adults and children.

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