'How a Hacker's Mom Broke Into Prison -- and the Warden's Computer'

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: John Strand breaks into things for a living. As a penetration tester, he gets hired by organizations to attack their defenses, helping reveal weaknesses before actual bad guys find them. Normally, Strand embarks on these missions himself or deploys one of his experienced colleagues at Black Hills Information Security. But in July 2014, prepping for a pen test of a South Dakota correctional facility, he took a decidedly different tack. He sent his mom.

In fairness, it was Rita Strand’s idea. Then 58, she had signed on as chief financial officer of Black Hills the previous year after three decades in the food service industry. She was confident, given that professional experience, that she could pose as a state health inspector to gain access to the prison. All it would take was a fake badge and the right patter. “She approached me one day and said 'You know, I want to break in somewhere,” says Strand, who is sharing the experience this week at the RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco. “And it’s my mom, so what am I supposed to say…?”

To help get her in the door, Black Hills made Rita a fake badge, a business card, and a “manager’s” card with John’s contact info on it. Assuming she got inside, she would then take photos of the facility’s access points and physical security features. Rather than have her try to hack any computers herself, John equipped Rita with so-called Rubber Duckies, malicious USB sticks that she would plug into every device she could. The thumb drives would beacon back to her Black Hills colleagues and give them access to the prison’s systems. Then they could work on the digital side of the pen test remotely while Rita continued her rampage.
It’s a fascinating story, though Strand also points out that "Prison cybersecurity is crucial for obvious reasons.

“If someone could break into the prison and take over computer systems, it becomes really easy to take someone out of the prison.”