Rehabilitation day for young cyber-miscreants hosted in Bristol
Rehabilitation day for young cyber-miscreants hosted in Bristol

Young people who have committed low-level cyber-crimes have taken part in an ‘intervention day' to rehabilitate them and prevent them from re-offending or from becoming involved in more serious crime.

Cyber Security Challenge UK worked closely with the National Crime Agency and industry partners to deliver a new initiative to rehabilitate young cyber-offenders, according to a release from the company.

The day itself was held at PGI's Cyber Academy in Bristol, and its aim was to prevent the participants from re-offending and to encourage them to consider ethical and legal jobs in the cyber-security sector.

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. 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.

Richard Jones, national cyber prevent co-ordinator at the National Crime Agency said: “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.”

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.

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 young attendees 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.

Rob Partridge, head of the BT Security Academy, BT, commented: “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.”

Partners in the initiative 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,” says a release from  Cyber Security Challenge UK, and it's for this reason, “Early intervention is essential to ensure young people do not become involved in further offending with their career prospects being tarnished.”

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.

Debbie Tunstall, head of education programmes, at Cyber Security Challenge UK, 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.”