A recent report by the United Kingdom's' National Crime Agency claims that young people are being indoctrinated into hacking crimes via gaming cheat websites and modding forums. According to the report, financial gain is not necessarily a priority for young offenders and that most advance to criminal hacking without considering consequences. Most of the young people surveyed for this report stated that completing a challenge, sense of accomplishment, or proving oneself to peers was the prime motivation for getting involved in cybercriminality. The intelligence collection period for this report is November 2013 to April 2016.
The report stated that easy access to Remote Access Trojan (RAT) malware programs, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) tools, and other malicious software enables those with very little skill to easily begin criminal activity online. Authorities believe teenagers who would not otherwise be involved in “traditional” crime are becoming involved in cyber crime.
One subject interviewed for the report did not think about potential victims and said he felt removed from any consequences because he did not feel what he was doing was criminal. Another subject said that his love of Call of Duty on the Xbox drove him to search out and share cheats for Xbox games. After becoming interested in “modding,” his motivation to build a good reputation in his gaming community led him to frequent hacking forums. As his proficiency increased, he began to help other members develop their skills.
Some of the more interesting stats from the report are:
No females have been arrested by NCCU for cyber-dependent crime as of February 2016.
Availability of low-level hacking tools encourages criminal behavior.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appears to be more prevalent amongst cyber criminals than the general populace, though this remains unproven.
Offenders begin to participate in gaming cheat websites and “modding” (game modification) forums and progress to criminal hacking forums without considering consequences.
Financial gain is not necessarily a priority for young offenders.
Completing the challenge, sense of accomplishment, proving oneself to peers is a key motivation for those involved in cybercriminality.
Offenders perceive the likelihood of encountering law enforcement as low.
Cyber crime is not solitary and anti-social. Social relationships, albeit online, are key. Forum interaction and building of reputation drives young cyber criminals.
Not all findings were bad. The report noted that positive opportunities, role models, and mentors can deter young people away from cybercrime. Targeted interventions at an early stage can also steer pathways towards positive outcomes.
The author of the report stated:
Positive role models, mentors and opportunities are key to deterring young people away from cybercrime. Debrief subjects lacked a positive role model who could steer them towards a positive pathway. Role models will often be the cyber criminal at the top of ladder the young people are trying to climb. Ex-offenders who managed to cease their activities and gain an education or career in technology have credited this change to a positive mentor, or someone who gave them an opportunity to use their skills positively.