Cyber crime: Preventing young people from getting involved

More and more teenagers and young people are getting involved in cyber crime. Many do it for fun without realising the consequences of their actions – but the penalties can be severe.

Cyber crime isn’t a victimless crime and is taken extremely seriously by law enforcement.

What is cyber crime

Cyber crime can be split into two broad categories:

  1. 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’. 
  2. Cyber-enabled crimes (such as fraud, the purchasing of illegal drugs and child sexual exploitation) can be conducted on or offline, but online may take place at unprecedented scale and speed.

Examples of cyber crime include:

  • Unauthorised access – this involves gaining access into someone’s computer network without their permission, and then taking control and/or taking information from other people’s computers. 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 is illegal. These programmes allow criminals to get into other people’s computers to carry out illegal activities. ‘Pranking’, by remotely accessing a friends computer when they don't know 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 an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with internet traffic from multiple sources. ‘Online service’ 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.

Consequences

Cyber crime is a serious criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act. The National Crime Agency and police 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
  • Computers being seized and being prevented from accessing the internet
  • A penalty or fine
  • Being arrested
  • Up to 10 years in prison for 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 1990 (453 KB) and that online activity is in compliance with the law.

Ways to use cyber skills positively

Skills in coding, gaming, computer programming, cyber security or anything IT-related are in high demand and there are many careers and opportunities available to anyone with an interest in these areas.

Top reasons to look for a career in cyber security include:

  • Whatever your skills or interests there is something for everyone – a number of organisations offer internships, insight days and apprenticeships
  • A good salary from the start and attractive benefit packages 
  • These career choices are in high demand not just in the UK but also abroad-which means young people 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 any industry
  • Becoming a ‘ pdf digital defender (1.26 MB)’ by helping companies and people to stay safe and fight cyber crime

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. 

Also keep an eye out on what is going on in our local libraries, clubs, colleagues or universities for activities or opportunities for young people of all ages.

There are opportunities are school and university for young people to learn cyber skills such as penetration testing in safe and legal environments.

Deterrants and alternative opportunities

It’s important for us to understand why more young people are becoming involved in cyber crime in order to ensure proper deterrents and alternative opportunities are available for people to enhance their skills and allow them to use positively. .

Working alongside CREST, NCCU Prevent have produced a pdf discussion paper (601 KB) around young people’s pathway into cyber crime and how to promote positive alternatives.

Advice for teachers

If you’re worried about one of your students speak to them about what is illegal, the consequences of cyber crime and show them positive ways to use their skills (see above). You should also make the student’s parents aware of your concerns.

Cyber Security Challenge UK has developed a lesson plan and an interactive game to teach people about the Computer Misuse Act.

If you would like further advice on the information held here then please contact the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you believe that your school is the victim of a cyber crime attack or a student is committing cyber crime then you can report to the Police by calling 101.

If you believe you have been a victim of cyber crime then please report to Action Fraud.

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