In my first years as a hobby coder, I was proficient in a small coding language named AutoHotkey. Before starting to learn C++, this was my go-to language of choice for any task. AutoHotkey is not only a “macro language” to automate mundane tasks. It is a powerful language that can create graphical applications, interact with the operating system and make you feel like a real hacker with just a few lines of code.
MsgBox, 4,, Would you like to continue? (press Yes or No) IfMsgBox Yes MsgBox You pressed Yes. else MsgBox You pressed No.
The fastest way to impress your friends at school!
Not only did I study the language and every trick in the book, I was an active member of the official German forum there. I was basically addicted to answering posts and being helpful. At least that was what people thought. I was of course interested in getting better street cred (aka a higher post count than others).
The other members were mostly irritated by the ten requests per day on “how to hack GTA”, so it was my time to prove myself as the proficient game hacker that everyone thought I was.
Apart from the occasional script kiddie, there were a lot of people asking for how to automate everyday tasks, such as creating shortcuts to play your favourite music. Or people would ask how to do specific things with the language.
One day, after answering a question about how to automate websites, I got a message from another user:
Hey there! I have a task that I want to achieve and would pay you a lot of money to do that. You seem to be an AMAZING programmer, so wanna earn some cash?
I do not remember the exact wording, but that is what I understood.
Wow, what an occasion. I already had my own website and already had published my own freeware (this is what you called shareware that did not earn any money back in the days). After a back and forth of messages, where I tried to find out what to do and my client being suspiciously secretive about the actual task, I got an offer.
A HUNDRED F***** EUROS!! At the age of 15!! This was like 8 months of pocket money! HOLY SHIT was I excited, and immediately accepted!
I still did not know what to do though. And before the final revelation, my client told me about his girlfriend from Switzerland. And how he had absolutely no money to afford a flight from Hamburg (North Germany) to visit her. Heartbreaking story about a long-distance relationship. I did not really care, I only had the golden dollar sign eyes 🤑 and was blind for any red flags.
In the end, the task was rather simple. A famous Swiss airline offered a contest, where you could win vouchers for free flights. For this, they had some kind of game where you had to repeatedly click on empty seats in a cartoon airplane in order to collect points. Then, after a week, the player with most points wins the free ticket. The whole thing went on for like a month.
You see, nothing shady there. Login, do an image search to find the position of an empty seat icon, click on it, confirm, logout, repeat.
So, the client won 3 tickets, I got my money and saved a relationship. Hero of the month. My moral compass was not fully developed at the time, and even then, the new Nintendo DS I bought with the money mostly made me forget about any doubts.
One year later, I stumbled upon a similar contest from the same airline. No idea why, but they introduced a captcha.
This was How I earned my first €100 and improved the security of a major airline. Hope you enjoyed the story!