Young Hackers Driven By Peer
21 April 2017
National Crime Agency has published research into how and why
some young people become involved in cyber crime.
The report, which is based on
debriefs with offenders and those on the fringes of criminality,
explores why young people assessed as unlikely to commit more
traditional crimes get involved in cyber crime.
The report emphasizes that financial gain is not necessarily a
priority for young offenders. Instead, the sense of
accomplishment at completing a challenge, and proving oneself to
peers in order to increase online reputations are the main
motivations for those involved in cyber criminality.
During his debrief, Subject 7, who was jailed for Computer
Misuse Act and fraud offences, told officers, “…it made me
popular, I enjoyed the feeling… I looked up to those users with
the best reputations”.
The report identifies that some offenders begin by participating
in gaming cheat websites and ‘modding’ (game modification)
forums before progressing to criminal hacking forums.
The assessment notes that off-the-shelf tools such as DDOS-for-hire
services and Remote Access Trojans (RATs) are available with
step by step tutorials at little to no cost to the user, making
the skills barrier for entry into cyber crime lower than it has
It also highlights that whilst there is no socio-demographic
bias, with people across the country from different backgrounds
among offenders, the average age of cyber criminals is
significantly younger than other crime types. In 2015, the
average age of suspects in NCA cyber crime investigations was 17
years old, compared to 37 in NCA drugs cases and 39 in NCA
economic crime cases.
Subject 1, a member of a hacking collective who sold DDoS tools
and Botnet services, told officers that a warning from law
enforcement would have made him stop his activities.
The report also identifies education and opportunities to use
skills positively as helpful in steering potential offenders
towards a future career in cyber security.
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.”