Cyber teen rehabilitation

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Young people who have done low-level cyber crimes were recently at a first ‘Intervention Day’. The aim; preventing them from re-offending or becoming involved in serious crime, encouraging them to consider ethical and legal jobs in cyber security.

The day, at PGI’s Cyber Academy in Bristol, was run for 14 to 18-year-olds who had typically received low level interventions such as cease and desist orders or cautions. The young people took part in workshops to see how talents could be used in legal and lucrative jobs, and heard from a former hacker. Organisers included besides the National Crime Agency (NCA) from private industry PGI, BT, IRM, Grillatech, Ferox Security and the Cyber Security Challenge UK’s alumni group, the Whitehatters Academy.

The UK does not have formal cyber crime offending rehabilitation, as there are for more traditional crimes such as speeding, assaults or drugs.

The average age of arrest by the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit was 17 years in 2015, in contrast to the average age of 37 for those arrested in drugs cases, and an average age of 39 for economic based crimes.

Debbie Tunstall, Head of Education Programmes, said: “Many young people unwittingly commit cyber crimes as they are not aware of boundaries – both ethical and legal. We are seeing a rise in the number of young people committing cyber crimes either through lack of education or a lack of a safe space to experiment. This programme can not only help them to realise right from wrong, but also give them an outlet to channel their expertise and a network of contacts to help them build a lucrative career too. These young people often have the exact kind of proficiencies we need to plug the skills shortfall and it is our job as an industry to support the Government in setting them on the right path.”

The NCA and partners plan to develop the approach further as a national resource to prevent individuals from getting involved in cyber crime or re-offending.

Richard Jones, National Cyber Prevent Co-ordinator at the NCA said: “Cyber crime is increasingly easy to commit because of the proliferation of easy-to-access tools, tutorials and online forums to share ideas. 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. Through these events we are helping young people understand the law and the consequences of offending. We want to demonstrate that a career in the industry can pay a lot more than cyber crime and can give them the sense of accomplishment and respect they are seeking.”

And Rob Partridge, Head of the BT Security Academy at BT, said: “BT is committed to making sure young people are properly equipped to enter the world of work. So, we’re supporting the career aspirations of young people through a number of programmes that help students, parents and teachers understand the vast range of career options available – particularly in the fields of computing and cyber security. This programme is an exciting opportunity to encourage young people to make the right choices when using their computing talent and understand how they can harness their skills to develop a long and fruitful career through which they can realise their full potential. The UK will be needing many more cyber security specialists over the coming years to defend businesses, organisations and individuals from the escalating number of attacks, so BT will be encouraging the talented individuals involved in this project to pursue a career in cyber security.”