Free tech tools aiding cyber crime, NCA warns

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned that young people are being helped into cyber crime through the use of free tools such as game-cheat websites or forums concerned with modifying games.

The NCA has published a report, which is based on debriefs with offenders and those on the fringes of criminality, on why young people assessed as unlikely to commit more traditional crimes get involved in cyber crime.

The report emphasised that financial gain was 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.

The research outlined 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 ever been’.

The NCA findings highlighted that whilst there is no socio-demographic bias, the average age of cyber criminals is significantly younger than other crime types. It cited that 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.

The report recommended that education and opportunities to use skills positively would be helpful in steering potential offenders towards a future career in cyber security.

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.”

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