Lock picking

Hack to the future

The National Crime Agency recently announced the average age of hackers dropped from 24 to 17 last year and 2015 was a truly bumper year for teen cybercrime. The days of graffiti, staying out and underage drinking being the worst a 14 year old can throw at their parents are gone. Instead we have a new generation of adolescents that, having evolved from that vegetative state in front of Call of Duty, are now clued up cyber criminals capable of hacking major mobile networks.

For most of us, our teenage years did not include spending a Saturday afternoon trying to steal a few million people’s bank details. However, the reality is that in October it happened, when TalkTalk fell victim to a somewhat embarrassing attack at the hands of schoolchildren. What’s more, this is not an isolated incident with the NCA speaking of a case in which a 12-year-old was able to find and purchase the Blackshades virus, software that allows a hacker to take control of someone else’s computer.

Robert Nowill, who works for the Cyber Security Challenge, an industry scheme, said: “Young people are becoming increasingly savvy and switched on to the world of cyber, something that is critical to the future defence of our country.

“The issue is keeping them on the right side of the law; many become attracted to the environment and the kudos they earn from getting involved in criminal activities.”

It’s promising that the UK has so many bright young things with an aptitude for computing, however, it is vital to nurture this talent and make sure it is put to use in a positive way. We have a generation of exceptional coders, however without an environment to push their abilities, the risk is they take on hacking corporations simply as a way of challenging themselves.

South Korea, has a number of Government initiatives cherry picking the most promising young programmers and training them to be a real asset when it comes to the cyber defence of their country. In exchange for 7 years of military service 120 young people get offered full university scholarships. This is a very different approach to anything that we have at the moment in the UK, but there is something to be said for giving young people a constructive outlet for their computer based talents. Certainly it would help the country be better protected against the ever evolving threats of the 21st century and who knows, it may even be a way to stop teenagers stealing our bank details…

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