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Law enforcement bodies and organised criminal gangs are in a race to recruit the same technically savvy young computer users to their cause.
That’s according to Andy Archibald, Deputy Director of the National Cybercrime Unit, part of the National Crime Agency, who was speaking as part of an Infosecurity Europe 2015 panel discussing ‘Who is the cybercriminal’.
“Many of our young people who are becoming highly skilled and capable in a digital environment. It’s important that they put those skills to good use and are not tempted to become – I would say unwittingly – in cyber criminality,” he told Infosec 2015 at London Olympia.
Archibald argued that internet forums and discussion boards provide organised crime gangs with the perfect place to scout out potential individuals they could recruit for the purposes of hacking and cyber crime.
“Because members of forums are exchanging ideas and enthusiasm in a market place in which criminals are looking. And what are they looking for? They’re looking for people with technical skills who can complement their criminal business,” Archibald argued.
Organisations such as the National Crime Agency are ultimately competing with cyber criminals when it comes to attempting to recruit skilled people, he claimed. “And in the same way that I may look on LinkedIn to look for the professionals of the future to come and work in the National Crime Agency, the criminals are looking to recruit the same people as well,” he said.
However, Archibald was keen to stress that “Their tactics for recruitment are very different from law enforcement, where they try to induce them, to manipulate”.
Alan Woodward, visiting professor of the Surrey Centre of Cyber Security at the University of Surrey, suggested that these young people are being encouraged to commit crimes such as making illegal downloads as ‘gateway to the dark side’.
“What we’re starting to learn is that as these youngsters are being sucked towards the ‘dark side’, there are certain gateway crimes they’re being encouraged to commit. They appear to be minor, even victimless crimes, but they are a gateway into those that support really major crimes for organised crime gangs,” he said.
Archibald added that encouraging forum users to begin committing ‘minor crimes’ was easy, because activities like illegally downloading music and films are so commonplace – as television shows like Game of Thrones demonstrate – that they’re viewed as victimless, but ultimately that opens a doorway to bigger crimes.
“The really interesting one – and I wouldn’t want anyone [in the audience] to comment with a show of hands – but if you think about the illegal downloading of music and videos, I think that practice is more common than you might imagine in the youth of today,” he said
“That’s criminality. That’s the first stages of a gateway into the dark side,” Archibald concluded. Archibald has previously spoken of the difficulties the police have when it comes to recruiting talet to help protect the public from hackers and cyber criminals.