An increasing number of young cybercriminals are motivated by a sense of notoriety and popularity with their peers rather than financial gain.
That is the main finding from a new report published by the UK government's National Crime Agency (NCA), which found that many young offenders are turning to cybercrime as a way of chasing a feeling of accomplishment or to increase their online reputation with their peers.
In a case outlined by the report, one youngster told officers: “… it made me popular, I enjoyed the feeling … I looked up to those users with the best reputations”.
The paper warns that the average age of those involved in cybercrime (17) is significantly lower when compared to that of other offences, such as drugs (37).
The report claims that a number of offenders find a route into cybercrime by participating in gaming cheat websites, which in turn allow them to ‘mod' – modify – their games.
This can then progress into more serious criminal behavior, with the NCA warning that off-the-shelf tools such as DDOS-for-hire services and Remote Access Trojans (RATs) are relatively accessible, with some even coming with step-by-step tutorials.
The report has subsequently stated that more needs to be done in order to ensure that young people understand the gravity of such offences, while also adding that more talented youngsters should have the opportunity to use their education and skills to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
Richard Jones, head of the National Cyber Crime Unit's Prevent team, said: “Even the most basic forms of cybercrime 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 cybercrime, when their skills can still be a force for good.