‘Encouraging engagement’ as Cyber Security Challenge UK and National Crime Agency join with North West Regional Organised Crime Unit to help youngsters use cyber skills in positive ways

On Saturday 8 June, Cyber Security Challenge UK and the National Crime Agency (NCA) delivered the sixth in a UK-wide series of Intervention Days designed to educate young low level intervention recipients and their parents or guardians through two tailored tracks on the consequences of breaking the law.

Joining forces with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and hosted by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors in Manchester, the year-long programme promotes positive diversions for teens tempted to misuse their technical abilities and inadvertently commit low level cyber-crime.

The Intervention Days consists of hands-on technical workshops and speaker sessions with industry experts to leave attendees better informed about what constitutes an offence under the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) 1990, and feeling encouraged to channel their cyber skills into lucrative careers that are both lawful and ethical. Parents and guardians were invited to participate in a dedicated track to empower them to support young people to pursue a multitude of opportunities for young cyber talent in industry.

Youngsters from their late teens and early twenties attended the workshop held in Manchester’s city centre, “I didn’t realise how high the demand for cyber security professionals was and that you don’t always need a degree; you don’t always need qualifications to get somewhere,” commented one attendee after the day, preferring to remain anonymous.

Detective Constable Will Farrell from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said: “Our Cyber Prevent strategy is to deter individuals from moving into, or deeper into cybercrime and to prevent reoffending. The North West Cyber Interventions Day was an important event enabling us to deliver structured awareness of the Computer Misuse Act and social responsibility messages to low level offenders who have already come to the attention of North West law enforcement. The really positive part of the day was helping to steer individuals away from cybercrime into doing legitimate things with their computer skills instead. Manchester is rapidly becoming the tech hub of the north and I can think of no better place to showcase cyber security career opportunities in the North West. It has been a privilege work with our partners to make this event such a success.”

Supported by both local and national employers, the agenda provides a strong set of positive role models for young experimental hackers to aspire to. Unsurprisingly, a criminal record comes with many disadvantages that can significantly limit the potential of these skilled youngsters who, in the majority of cases, are simply uninformed about the risks they’re taking. The Director of Professional Services from Manchester-headquartered information assurance firm, NCC Group joins CISO Graham Thomson from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors alongside experts from Grillatech, Distology and Context – each of whom represent industry partners keen to deter those at risk of offending and enthusiastic to attract new hires in a joint effort towards reducing the global cyber skills gap.

Ethan Thomas, Operations Officer at the National Crime Agency, added: “The National Crime Agency (NCA) has witnessed a rise in the number of young individuals engaging in cyber-crime for non-traditional reasons. As such, we created a National Cyber Prevent Strategy to reduce the traffic of talented individuals into criminality. One of the tools designed to deter and divert those with technical ability and at risk of criminal conduct was today’s workshop. It forms part of a regional roll-out following the success of the initial workshop pilot in 2017, and successive regional workshops delivered by Cyber Prevent Network Officers within the Regional Organised Crime Units. The workshop delivers education on employment opportunities, alongside the law and online social responsibility, allowing the attendees to make informed choices about the direction of their lives. The individuals present today have the opportunity to embrace a bright new future which aligns their technical skill sets to legitimate and legal activities.”

Dr Robert Nowill, Chairman, Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “Cyber-crimes committed by young people usually escalate from experimental hacking, rather than malicious intent. Each Intervention Day enables both delegates and guardians to develop a better understanding of the law and the consequences of committing offences. Our aim is for people to leave feeling equipped with the knowledge they need to make informed choices in future, and inspired to apply their technical proficiencies lawfully and ethically.

“Our ongoing collaboration with the NCA, today supported further by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and NCC Group as well as cyber security organisations enthusiastic to nurture and hire young talent, provides a safe environment in which skilled young people can connect with industry and leave feeling confident that exciting career prospects are well within their reach.”

Colin Gillingham, Director of Professional Services, NCC Group, added: “The cyber security industry has a responsibility to engage with young people and help them to understand the breadth of cyber security careers that are available. These roles encompass a much wider variety of skills, experience and expertise than most realise, so it’s important to help people understand how they can channel their enthusiasm into an ethical and exciting career path.

“We’re extremely pleased to be supporting this event, which will undoubtedly help towards empowering the next generation to take up roles that enable them to use their skills and potential to create a rewarding future in cyber security.”

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