ONCE upon a time adolescent troublemaking meant sneaking out at night for some underage drinking and general shenanigans.
But these days it’s almost as likely that tech savvy kids are using the digital world to flex their mischief muscles by committing small scale cyber attacks like defacing a website, knocking servers offline or accessing restricted networks from behind their home computers.
Speaking with news.com.au, cyber expert Professor Roderic Broadhurst said the only difference between hackers and those that work in cyber security is the latter group had had intervention at some stage.
It’s this reason that the UK government is trying to intervene with young hackers, trialling a weekend “rehab camp” for teens who have been caught engaging in small-time cyber crimes.
The pilot program which is put on by the country’s National Crime Agency and grew out of a research project involves introducing them to white hat hackers and giving them advice about careers in computer security.
The attendees will be monitored in the wake of the program and if it proves successful, it will be rolled out across the UK, the BBC reports.
One participant in the program began hacking after what he described as an accidental hack of a primary school network that locked everyone out of the system. He said it got him hooked on computers and he was soon engaging in social engineers exploits to get people to unwittingly give up information to allow him to gain deep access to prohibited systems.
“I manipulated people’s feelings and thoughts to my own advantage,” he told the BBC. “It was all attacks, attacks, attacks and nothing on the good side.”
He was eventually arrested after he attacked a company website just for “mischief” but it left the organisation with a hefty bill which it struggled to recover.
“I didn’t mean to do it,” the high-schooler said. “I had no intention to cause harm.”
As part of his suspended sentence, he was made to attend the rehab course.
His story is not much different to a South Australian teenager who was spared jail time in August last year after carrying out one of the country’s biggest “distributed denial of service” hacks at the time for fun and curiosity.
The youth, who could not be identified under state law, crippled the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network, weeks after shutting down the Commonwealth Bank’s internet banking.
He escaped jail time and was ordered into mediation with his family and his victims, the Adelaide Advertiser reported.
Prof Roderic Broadhurst, a professor of Criminology at the Australian National University who specialises in cyber crime says he is unaware of any hacker reform programs currently happening in Australia like the one trialled in the UK.
However he told news.com.au that he believes it could “possibly be helpful to shape (teen hackers) at the thrill level.”
Australia’s Signals Directorate — the shadowy government department tasked with digital espionage, or “stealing their secrets and protecting ours” as their motto goes, has recently tapped Aussie high schools as part of a recruitment drive.
Ethan Thomas from the UK’s National Crime Agency says getting to talented young hackers and computer criminals early was the key.
“The skills are so transferable with this crime type,” he said. “If you have good cyber-skills there are many, many qualifications you can take.”
As part of the study which underpins the program he looked at profiles of offenders and compared them to those of talented people in the cyber security industry.
“What we found was that the only sole difference within the stories was that the industry members, at some point, had an intervention,” he said.
SECURITY TOPS THE LIST OF CONCERNS FOR INTERNET USERS
This morning the Internet Society released its findings from its annual Survey on Internet Policy Issues in Asia-Pacific.
More than 2000 people from 40 economies across the Asia-Pacific region responded to the survey, which looks at how internet users handle personal information online.
The findings show that cyber security is now the top concern for internet users in the region, followed by access, data protection, connectivity and privacy.
“Clearly, more than ever, internet users are being confronted with issues that threaten their trust in what is now our primary means of personal communication. So it’s incumbent on governments to ensure the internet is protected, while also ensuring our rights to privacy are preserved,” said Internet Australia executive director Laurie Patton.