Technologically-savvy young adults are drawn to hacking by the perceived glories of cybercrime, according to a new report from the UK's National Crime Agency.
Based on discussions with convicted criminals, the report concludes that people who otherwise wouldn't be attracted to a life of crime feel a sense of accomplishment when they engage in hacking: by creating a pièce de résistance like a trojan or distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, they're seeking recognition from their online community.
The report includes interviews from some of the cybercriminals who the NCA arrested. One suspect, who was detained for obtaining unauthorized access to a US government website, told NCA investigators that "I did it to impress the people in the hacking community, to show them I had the skills to pull it off…I wanted to prove myself…that was my main motivation."
They're doing it all at a very young age, too, at least compared to other criminals. In 2015, the average age of suspects in NCA cyber crime investigations was 17 years old, according to the report, compared to 37 in drug cases and 39 economic crime cases.
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"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," Richard Jones, Head of the National Cyber Crime Unit's Prevent team, said in a statement.
The UK has increasingly taken a tough stance on cybercrime, with 57 suspected hackers arrested in coordinated raids across the country in a single day in 2015.