The most famous, and unlikeliest, hacker in the news this week is little Ashlynd Howell of Little Rock, Ark. The exploits of the enterprising 6-year-old first came to light in a Wall Street Journal story about the difficulties of keeping presents a secret in the digital age. It seems that while mom Bethany was sleeping on the couch, Ashlynd gently picked up her mother's thumb and used it to unlock the Amazon app on her phone. She then proceeded to order $250 worth of Pokemon presents for herself. When her parents got 13 confirmation notices about the purchases, they thought that either they'd been hacked (they were, as it turned out) or that their daughter had ordered them by mistake. But she proudly explained, "No, Mommy, I was shopping." The Howells were able to return only four of the items.
That nugget from the Journal story has now charmed the Internet. "Child genius," declares a post at New York magazine, while Gizmodo hails this "kid hero." CNET points out that the FTC has been cracking down online retailers, including Amazon, Apple, and Google, for making it too easy for kids to buy things, but suggests parents might want to wear gloves while napping around gift time. "This is pretty unique case, as several factors contributed to the child’s digital shopping spree, including the Amazon app being set up for password-free ordering," observes a post at BGR. But it shows just how easy it is to foil security features, adds Mike Wehner. "I mean, really, if a six-year-old can beat it, just how secure is it?" (Returning too much stuff can get you banned on Amazon.)