UK Cops hope that house calls will scare teenage hackers to stop them from committing cybercrimes

The National Crime Agency (NCA) is targeting teenagers in the UK that are committing crimes online. The campaign aims to warn young people about the dangers of hacking and using online tools for cyber-attacks.

The ‘CyberChoices’ campaign comes after NCA research disclosed the average age of people involved in its investigations was 17. The research indicated few teenagers knew what constituted a cybercrime or what would happen if they were caught.
The idea is that with the cops showing up at their doorstep when the kids are near committing a crime that involves jail time, such as when they get access to a tool for denial of service attacks. Naturally, the hope is that teens will realize how real their consequences of their actions are and that jail time is very likely if they were to get caught.

For instance, there was a hacking service called Lizard Stresser in 2014 that was used to attack companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Amazon. There were several teenagers who had signed up for the service which then prompted police to visit their homes in the hope that through this visit, it will scare them to the point where the sign up of the hacking service is the maximum, they will ever go when it comes to cybercrimes.

It is not certain how effective the strategy really is. While hackers can’t get house calls if they are good at covering their tracks, there will always be some teens who are convinced they will never get caught. However, there is reason to believe that it should work. Former teen hackers (like LulzSec’s Jake Davis) describe being blind to the real-world consequences of their actions, they felt like they were attacking computers, not people. Police visits could remind them that there’s a potential victim on the other end.

To raise awareness, the NCA is targeting teens and their parents with an ad campaign that began running in UK movie theatres on Dec. 8. The dramatization shows two parents in their living room boasting about their computer genius son and his inexplicably large bank account. It cuts to two NCA officers in a police interview room, with the tag line “Cybercrime wrecks lives.”

The CyberChoices materials will be made available via the NCA’s website as well as its Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages. It is being supported by several partner organisations including GetSafeOnline, the Cyber Security Challenge and the Crest organisation, which represents ethical hackers.

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