We live in a connected world that will only get bigger through the advance of new technologies such as the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. For most people, these technologies are taken for granted. However, for those who have a deep interest in understanding the detail of what happens behind the scenes, there could be a bright future ahead. Skills in coding, gaming, computer programming, cyber security or anything IT-related are in high demand and there may be many careers and opportunities available to those with an interest in these areas.
However, more and more young people are getting involved in cyber crime. Many do it for fun without realising the consequences of their actions - but the penalties can have an impact on their long-term future. Cyber crime is not a victimless crime and is taken extremely seriously by law enforcement.
What is cyber crime?
Cyber crime can be split into two broad categories:
- Cyber-dependent crimes (or ‘pure’ cyber crimes) are offences that can only be committed using a computer, computer networks or other forms of information communications technology (ICT). An example of a cyber-dependent crime is gaining unauthorised access into someone’s computer network, this can also be called ‘hacking’.
- Cyber-enabled crimes (such as fraud, the purchasing of illegal drugsand child sexual abuse and exploitation) can be conducted on or offline, but online, it can take place at unprecedented scale and speed.
Examples of cyber crime include:
- Unauthorised access – this involves gaining entry into someone’s computer network without their permission and accessing their data. Examples may include accessing the secure area on the school’s computer network and looking for test paper answers or trying to change test scores.
- Making, supplying or obtaining malware (malicious software), viruses, spyware, botnets and Remote Access Trojans with the intent to commit further offences. These programmes allow criminals to access other people’s computers to carry out illegal activities. ‘Pranking’, by remotely accessing a friend’s computer when they don't know that you are doing it and messing around is still illegal.
- Carrying out a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack or 'booting'. A DDoS attack is an attempt to make a computer or network services unavailable by overwhelming it with internet traffic from multiple sources. This could be a large website or an individual internet user. Booting someone offline whilst playing online games may seem like a harmless joke, but is still illegal.
Cyber crime is a serious criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. Law Enforcement take cyber crime extremely seriously and will make every effort to arrest and prosecute offenders.
Young people getting involved with cyber crime could face:
- A visit and warning from police or NCA officers
- A Cease and Desist visit from police or NCA officers
- Computers being seized and being prevented from accessing the internet
- A penalty or fine
- Being arrested
- Up to life in prison for the most serious offences
A permanent criminal record could affect education and future career prospects, as well as potential future overseas travel.
Make sure you’re fully aware of the pdf Computer Misuse Act (732 KB) and that your online activity is in compliance with the law.
Got time on your hands and fancy a cyber challenge in a safe and legal environment? Why not try these online resources to test and develop your skills:
Defend CyberLand from cyber attack!
The NCA have teamed up with Cyber Security Challenge UK to bring you a series of interactive online games suitable for all ages and levels of technical ability free of charge!’
Enjoy your wargames and want to learn and practice security concepts while you are playing? Then go to: www.overthewire.org
To test your penetration skills and exchange ideas with thousands of other professionals in the security field then take a look at:
It is recommended that you start with some of the ‘easy’ VulnHub boxes and OvertheWire before giving HacktheBox a crack.
All the third party sites listed are publicly available for personal development. They are not endorsed, supported or monitored by the NCA or UK Law Enforcement. NCA or UK Law Enforcement cannot be held responsible for the content of these sites.
Consider undertaking a short study course in the cyber security field backed by the Open University and accredited by GCHQ? Then try: www.futurelearn.com and search for ‘Introduction to Cyber Security’
If you pay a small fee you can get ‘anytime access’ and a course completion certificate.
Ways to use cyber skills positively
Why you should consider a career in cyber security:
- Whatever your skills or interests, there is something for everyone – a number of organisations offer insight days, internships, and apprenticeships
- A good salary from the start and attractive benefit packages
- These careers are in high demand, not just in the UK but also abroad which means that young people may have an opportunity to travel to new places whilst learning new cyber skills
- Being part of a dynamic industry – never a dull day with the opportunity to keep refreshing skills and expanding their knowledge of the cyber-world
- Highly transferable skills that can be applied to many industry sectors
There are also a number of organisations to help young people develop cyber skills:
- Cyber Security Challenge - a series of national competitions, learning programmes and networking in coding and programming.
- GCHQ Careers – Here you can find out about what jobs with the tech industry your skills match, there are job profile too where GCHQ staff talk about what they get up to in their role. You can also find out more about GCHQ’s Cyber First programme for University Students, Apprenticeships and Summer Schools for teenagers.
- Video Game Ambassadors – Part of UKIE (UK Interactive Entertainment), learn what it is like to become a game developer or how to get a job in the gaming industry.
Keep an eye on what is going on in your local libraries, clubs, colleges or universities for activities or opportunities for young people of all ages to test their cyber skills in safe and legal environments.
Parents / Guardians / Carers
Children are becoming more and more immersed in communications and computing technology, including phones, tablets, laptops, PCs, game consoles, TVs, devices and of course, the internet.
Many young people are curious and want to explore how these things work, how they interact with each other and what vulnerabilities they have. This can include learning to code and experimenting with tools and techniques discovered online, on video streaming websites or discussed in forums.
These are great skills to have and the cyber security industry is very short of people with them. However, some young people are vulnerable and make poor choices and use such skills illegally, often in ignorance of the law. The average age of someone convicted for cyber crime offences is much younger than other crime types; offenders are often teenagers.
It’s important for us to understand why more young people are becoming involved in cyber crime. This enables us to ensure that proper deterrents and alternative opportunities are available to people, so that they can enhance their skills and use them positively.
Working alongside CREST (assurance provider in the information security industry), the National Crime Agency have produced a discussion paper around young people’s pathways into cyber crime and how to promote positive alternatives.
The Cyber Choices network was created to help people make informed choices and to use their cyber skills in a legal way.
This is a national initiative co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency and delivered by Cyber Choices teams within Regional Organised Crime Units and Local Police Force Cyber Teams.
The aims of the programme are to:
- Educate on the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and the possible consequences should they break the law.
- Encourage individuals to make informed choices about their use of technology
- Deter and/or divert individuals from cyber crime
- Promote legal and ethical cyber opportunities
Young people with an aptitude for coding or hacking have a choice to make. Help your students take the legal route in the cyber landscape.
If your student has an interest in computers/technology, it’s important to have a discussion with them about their use of it. Recognising and engaging with this interest may encourage them to follow the correct pathway.
If you’re concerned, talk to your student about the importance of honesty, legality and the consequences of being involved in cyber crime. Explain the enjoyable, financially rewarding and legal options available to them. These include coding, engineering, web development, penetration testing, security operations, law enforcement, legal hacking and many more roles in both the public and private sectors.
The NCA in collaboration with the PSHE Association have developed Key Stage 3 lesson plans which explore cyber crime, decision making and victim awareness:
Search for computing and coding clubs available in your area and encourage your student to join the appropriate one for their age and ability.
If you believe you have been a victim of cyber crime then please report this to Action Fraud.
If you are a business, charity or other organisation which is currently suffering a live cyber attack (in progress) please call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.