How free hacking tools on the web could be leading kids into cybercrime

A girl stares at her computer screen
Alain Jocard | AFP | Getty Images

Gaming websites could be spawning a new breed of cybercriminals, according to new research which claims that young people are being indoctrinated into hacking crimes via free and easily-accessible internet pages.

Websites and forums which provide cheat codes and modifications for video games are making it increasingly easy for young people to develop criminal skills and become involved in hacking chat rooms, a report by the U.K.'s National Crime Agency (NCA) has said.

Readily-available step-by-step tutorials for Remote Access Trojan (RAT) malware programs and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are also making the skills barrier into cybercrime lower than it has ever been, the NCA suggests.

The report, which was based on conversations conducted between the NCA and British young offenders, identifies the sense of "completing a challenge" and "proving oneself to peers", as key motivators for young people.

The absence of financial gain is seemingly attracting young people who would otherwise be unlikely to commit more traditional crimes, with many claiming to be unaware that their activities would be perceived as criminal.

However, this also presents an opportunity to divert young people away from a life of crime by proving greater opportunities to redirect their skills, the head of the National Cyber Crime Unit's Prevent team suggests.

"There is great value in reaching young people before they ever become involved in cybercrime, 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."

Cybercrime is a growing problem among young people, with as many as one in 10 16 to 19-year-olds in the U.K. in contact with somebody who has engaged in cyber activity that could be deemed illegal, according to research from Kaspersky Lab.

It also suggests that more than one third (35 percent) would be impressed if a friend hacked a bank's website.

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