Cyber Security Challenge UK worked closely with the NCA and industry partners to deliver a new initiative to rehabilitate young people who have committed low-level cyber crimes and prevent them from re-offending or from becoming involved in serious crime.
The Intervention Day, which was held at PGI’s Cyber Academy in Bristol, was run specifically for young people who have committed minor cyber crimes, and received low level interventions such as cease and desist orders or cautions. Its aim was to prevent them from re-offending and to encourage them to consider ethical and legal jobs in the cyber security sector. The cyber security industry is crying out for more skilled workers. Industry association (ISC)2 estimates the global shortfall of cyber security workers will stand at 1.8 million by 2022.
The day’s attendees were aged 14-18; the majority had previously received either a caution or a cease and desist visit by law enforcement for cyber crime activity. The primary aim of the day was to ensure the young people understand the law and the consequences of offending so they can make an informed choice. These young people took part in workshops and training across the day to highlight how talents could be used constructively in legal and highly lucrative jobs, as well as hearing from a former hacker who transformed his life. Partners include PGI, BT, IRM, Grillatech, Ferox Security and the Challenge’s alumni group, the Whitehatters Academy. This collaboration of public and private organisations is critical to ensuring the industry can provide intervention for young cyber criminals and offer jobs to those who seek second chances.
There are currently no formal cyber crime offending rehabilitation programmes, as there are for other more traditional crimes such as speeding, assaults or drugs. Early intervention is essential to ensure young people do not become involved in further offending with their career prospects being tarnished.
The average age of arrest by the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit was just 17 years old in 2015, in contrast to the average age of 37 for those arrested in drugs cases, and an average age of 39 years old for economic based crimes.
Debbie Tunstall, Head of Education Programmes, said: “Many young people unwittingly commit cyber crimes as they are not aware of boundaries – both ethical and legal. We are seeing a rise in the number of young people committing cyber crimes either through lack of education or a lack of a safe space to experiment. This programme can not only help them to realise right from wrong, but also give them an outlet to channel their expertise and a network of contacts to help them build a lucrative career too. These young people often have the exact kind of proficiencies we need to plug the skills shortfall and it is our job as an industry to support the Government in setting them on the right path.”
The NCA and partners plan to develop the approach further so it can be a national resource used consistently alongside existing criminal justice processes to prevent individuals from getting involved in cyber crime or re-offending.
Richard Jones, National Cyber Prevent Co-ordinator at the National Crime Agency said: “Cyber crime is increasingly easy to commit because of the proliferation of easy-to-access tools, tutorials and online forums to share ideas. Even the most basic forms of cyber crime can have huge impacts and the NCA and police will arrest and prosecute offenders, which can be devastating to their future. That means there is great value in reaching young people before they ever become involved in cyber crime, when their skills can still be a force for good.
“Through these events we are helping young people understand the law and the consequences of offending. We want to demonstrate that a career in the industry can pay a lot more than cyber crime and can give them the sense of accomplishment and respect they are seeking.”
Further consortium quotes:
Rob Partridge, Head of the BT Security Academy, BT
“BT is committed to making sure young people are properly equipped to enter the world of work. So, we’re supporting the career aspirations of young people through a number of programmes that help students, parents and teachers understand the vast range of career options available – particularly in the fields of computing and cyber security. This programme is an exciting opportunity to encourage young people to make the right choices when using their computing talent and understand how they can harness their skills to develop a long and fruitful career through which they can realise their full potential. The UK will be needing many more cyber security specialists over the coming years to defend businesses, organisations and individuals from the escalating number of attacks, so BT will be encouraging the talented individuals involved in this project to pursue a career in cyber security.”
Charles White, CEO, IRM:
“IRM are proud to be involved in this initiative and work with the NCA to help guide these young offenders away from crime and ensure they understand that there is another way to use their talents for good. Here at IRM we are very proud and fortunate to be home to a number of talented individuals, and it is very exciting for me to watch the talent of tomorrow coming together at an event such as this.”