An expert in cyber security has listed the signs parents can look out for if they suspect their child is involved in cyber crime.
Vince Warrington, who’s helped both the Government and private companies keep their data safe, is part of a new scheme launched in Merseyside educating children aged 8-18 about online behaviour.
The YouthFed ‘Hackers to Heroes’ programme aims to encourage children talented at using computers into lucrative careers in cyber security rather than cyber crime.
Here are the signs to look out for:
They spend most of their free time alone with their computer
They have few real friends, but talk extensively to online friends about computers
Teachers say the child has a keen interest in computers, almost to the exclusion of all other subjects
They’re online so much it affects their sleeping habits
They use the language of hacking, with terms such as ‘DdoS’ (pronounced D-dos), Dossing, pwnd, Doxing, Bots, Botnets, Cracking, Hash (refers to a type of encryption rather than cannabis), Keylogger, Lulz, Phishing, Spoof or Spoofing. Members of the Anonymous Hackivist group refer to their attacks as ‘Ops’
They refer to themselves and their friends as hackers or script kiddies
They have multiple social media profiles on one platform
They have multiple email addresses
They have an odd sounding nickname (famous ones include MafiaBoy and CyberZeist)
Their computer has a web browser called ToR (The Onion Router) which is used to access hacking forums on the dark web
Monitoring tools you’ve put on the computer might suddenly stop working
They can connect to the wifi of nearby houses (especially concerning if they have no legitimate reason to have the password)
They claim to be making money from online computer games (many hackers get started by trying to break computer games in order to exploit flaws in the game. They will then sell these ‘cheats’ online).
They might know more than they should about parents and siblings, not being able to resist hacking your email or social media
Your internet connection slows or goes off, as their hacker rivals try to take them down
Some circumstantial evidence suggests children with Autism and Asperger’s could be more vulnerable to becoming hackers.
Mr Warrington said children as young as eight have gotten involved in hacking, and most often it starts with online gaming. Targets are often quite specific, such as rival clans or computer game companies that have done something they dislike.
Convictions for cyber crime can make it hard to get a job involving computers in the future, but by contrast, careers in cyber security can be highly paid.
“By 2022, we’re looking at a global shortfall of 1.8 million skilled cyber security workers,” said Mr Warrington. “If you want a career change, cyber is the way to go. The average for a senior cyber security consultant is £80-90,000, and a chief information security officer (CISO) for a mid-sized business costs £120,000 to £140,000. Some CISOs for big banks are pulling in millions of pounds because they’re that valuable.”