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The National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned that young people are slipping into criminal cyber activity as a result of the availability of free, easy-to-use hacking tools.
The report, Pathways Into Cyber Crime, explores why young people assessed as unlikely to commit more traditional crimes get involved in cyber crime, and finds that many offenders begin by participating in gaming cheat websites and game modification forums. Wasy access to illegal programs and low barriers to entry thanks to the wide availability of easy-to-use hacking tools were likely to be the main factors in why young people are finding themselves involved in cyber activity.
Additionally, the average age of cyber criminals is significantly younger than other crime types, with the average age of suspects in NCA cyber crime investigations 17 years old, compared to 37 in NCA drugs cases and 39 in NCA economic crime cases.
Moreover, the NCA found that financial gains was not a priority for young cyber criminals, but that the sense of accomplishment at completing a challenge, and proving oneself to peers in order to increase online reputations were the main motivations for those involved in cyber criminality.
Richard Jones, head of the National Cyber Crime Unit’s Prevent team, said: “Even the most basic forms of cyber crime can have huge impacts and the NCA and police will arrest and prosecute offenders, which can be devastating to their future. That means there is great value in reaching young people before they ever become involved in cyber crime, when their skills can still be a force for good.
“The aim of this assessment has been to understand the pathways offenders take, and identify the most effective intervention points to divert them towards a more positive path. That can be as simple as highlighting opportunities in coding and programming, or jobs in the gaming and cyber industries, which still give them the sense of accomplishment and respect they are seeking.”