Rehab for hackers: Convincing young cybercriminals to trade the black hat for white

Rehab for hackers: Convincing young cybercriminals to trade the black hat for white

Cybercrime continues to be a thorn in side of the police. The Office for National Statistics' latest Crime Survey reported a 12 per cent increase in computer misuse crime, driven by a 35 per cent rise in hacking. But not all infractions are overseen by cybercriminals of international renown - many hackers are actually tech-savvy teens who get a buzz from beating the system or might not even be aware that what they're doing is illegal.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) believes these teenagers are unlikely to have previously broken the law and are hacking for the kudos rather than financial reward. Often the crimes are small and they've not considered how their teenage kicks could be hurting others. In these instances what should the punishment entail? Is prison really the best solution?


Cybercrime rehab

Several organisations have been looking towards behavioural intervention over a custodial sentence, channelling the hackers' love of technology towards something more positive. Leading the way is the NCA alongside Cyber Security Challenge and industry partners, which trialed a National Cyber Diversion Workshop back in 2017 for young technically-minded individuals who were on the fringe, or had committed, low level cybercrime. Following the pilot's success the concept was rolled out across the UK and six further workshops will have been completed by this May.

"The NCA Prevent Team was formed to prevent individuals from engaging in cyber criminality," says NCA Prevent's operations officer Ethan Thomas. "We conducted research into motivations for committing offences, pathways into cybercrime and interventions. This workshop was one of the tools developed."

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Keri Allan

Keri Allan is a freelance journalist and editor who has been covering the engineering and technology sector for over 15 years, writing for titles including E&T Magazine, The Engineer and Arabian Computer News.

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