UK Police Crack Down on Young Cybercriminals

The UK has made headlines for turning the heat up on young hackers.

lizard stresser“Over the past few years, the NCA [National Crime Agency] has seen the people engaging in cybercrime becoming younger and younger,” Richard Jones explained. Jones is the current head of the Prevent team at the NCA’s Cyber Crime Unit.

Jones explained that a recent online attack tool known as Lizard Stresser was actually created by 7 people under the age of 18.

The NCA’s clamping down on teenage offenders come as part of the Cyber Choices campaign, which was in turn prompted by the fact that an NCA study revealed the average age of people involved in its investigations was only 17 years of age. The study also found that very few teenagers in the UK actually understood what constituted a cybercrime and what the legal consequences were.

Cybercrimes are common among young hackers who don’t actually want to steal anything or do any horribly catastrophic harm; often viruses are created solely to see how far they spread so that the hackers behind them can reap the bragging rights. Unfortunately, in this age of more serious hacking and cyberterrorism, many governments have no sense of humor for this new form of teenage pranking.

blackshades ratThe National Crime Agency’s Cyber Crime Unit was astounded after uncovering certain information during Operation Dermic in 2014. The operation was pitted against users of a remote-access Trojan (known as a Rat) called Blackshades. After an in-depth investigation of the origin of the Blackshades Trojan, a total of 17 arrests were made. During a follow-up, the National Crime Agency’s Cyber Crime Unit underwent over 80 “cease and desist” visits to people that they had found guilty of purchasing the Blackshades Trojan. Over 500 emails and letters were additionally sent out to people found responsible for purchasing the cybercrime kit that allows for the generation of the Blakshades remote-access Trojan. To the National Crime Agency’s Cyber Crime Unit’s surprise, a large portion of the people contacted due to buying or somehow being involved with the kit were under the age of 20 and still living at home with their parents. In fact, the youngest Blackshades buyer was just 12 years old.

The issue highlights the fact that programmers and hackers are becoming younger and younger, so ill-conceived cybercrimes are being enacted by younger and younger cybercriminals, often in a more experimental than malicious mindset. Early access to computers and the internet will yield an unprecedented generation of computer users, a generation that governments are struggling to educate in terms of the law and the consequences for breaking it. At the same time, laws regarding cybercrime are still forming and lawmakers are attempting to adapt to the constant need for new legislation in a world they weren’t trained to oversee.

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