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25 Jul 2017

The UK: NCA starts rehab camp for young cyber-criminals

Rehab camp for cyber criminals in the UK

We have heard about rehabilitation camps for drug misuse, alcohol addiction, and even criminal behavior.

The UK now wants to get tough on cyber-criminals. The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) has started a rehab course in Bristol for young hackers.

The NCA seeks to explain the teen hackers about the illegal online activities and bring them in from the cold.

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In context

Rehab camp for cyber criminals in the UK

Computer Criminals

Average cyber-criminal is 17 years old in the UK

The rehab camp would benefit the youngsters by diverting them away from crime and applying their skills in cyber-security.

The first camp was held last week; it could soon be conducted across the UK.

Ethan Thomas, an Operations Officer in NCA's Prevent Team (dealing with young cyber-offenders), said the attendees were those caught by police while carrying out cyber-crimes.


Seven attendees chosen for the first rehab course

Seven youngsters attended the first rehab camp; their level of cyber-criminal activity is higher than the others known to the NCA.

They were either arrested, visited by police, cautioned by officers or spotted using cyber-crime tools and techniques.

They committed cyber-offenses at school, broke into school systems, defaced several websites, knocked servers offline, and also carried out hacking to take over restricted networks.

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NCA Officer Ethan Thomas's statement

Thomas said NCA's aim is to "positively divert those (youngsters) that could be putting their skills to a more positive and legal use. The skills are so transferable with this crime type. If you have good cyber-skills, there are many, many qualifications you can take."

Good Guidance

NCA to monitor how the rehab camp changed cyber-criminals

The first two-day residential camp educated young hackers about using their tech skills responsibly.

Industry experts enlightened them about career opportunities and roles in cyber-security, including network protection, red teaming (mounting attacks on or challenging companies to improve effectiveness), and forensic analysis.

Attendees also participated in hacking games, coding challenges, and learned about bug bounty programs that would pay them for finding/reporting loopholes.

Now I know cyber-security exists: An attendee

After one session, an attendee said: "It (cyber-security) sounds like it would be something I really, really want to go into. You get the same rush, the same excitement, but you are using it for fun still, but it is legal, and you get paid."

The Rehab Project

Intervention, good guidance effective in building youngsters' careers

Thomas said the rehab course was inspired by an NCA study that compared the skills of hackers on "both sides of the law."

It demonstrated how intervention and guidance from various sources (parents/teachers/guardians) could change youngsters and build their career.

Former cyber-offender Solomon Gilbert spoke to attendees about his past and how his IT teacher helped him; he runs a cyber-firm, Ferox Security.

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