TECH
03/03/2015 13:29 GMT | Updated 03/03/2015 13:59 GMT

Home Office Warns Video Game Hackers Could Be Future Criminals

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computer coder

Young people with highly technical computer skills could become targets — or instigators — of organised crime, the government has warned.

(That’s the government which has just placed coding back on the school curriculum.)

A new Home Office “prevent” guide to identifying those “at risk” of falling into crime, spotted by Techno Guido, says that “specialist knowledge and skills in IT and communications” could be a gateway to potential criminality.

The guide, aimed at helping police and local authorities spot at-risk individuals, said that those who have undergone formal IT training, or who have taught themselves, could have skills to “commit serious offences”.

These skills could be as innocent as hacking video games or “sharing online”, it says.

computer code

Above: the relevant section of the report

“Early behaviours could include modifications to games or software and sharing online. Recent evidence suggests that the number of frauds committed by young adults are increasing.”

The report also notes that “online networks and communities” could provide a “pathway into serious and organised crime”.

Meanwhile official guidance on the computer literacy states:

“A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world…

“Building on this knowledge and understanding, pupils are equipped to use information technology to create programs, systems and a range of content.

“Computing also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.”

Though not too active, clearly.

The irony of the report has not been lost on Twitter:

While it might be an overreaction to worry that your young Minecraft-addicted nephew might be a target for cyberthugs, it’s clearly true that only people with high-level technical skills are going to commit high-level technical crime.

The report cites an Independent article in which the director of Europol Rob Wainwright outlined his fears that computer graduates are being “lured” into cybercrime.

“There are three employers out there: the police, the tech companies and the bad guys. They are all after the same style of graduates,” Wainwright told the paper. “Across the board in Europe, the police are really struggling to get the right guys through the doors because they can’t afford to pay the rates that criminals and the tech guys do.”

The Home Office said of the new report:

"Tackling serious and organised crime is not a matter just for national and regional policing. An effective response also depends on strong and effective local relationships and information sharing between law enforcement agencies, government departments, regulators, local authorities, the voluntary sector and the private sector. This guidance aims to support frontline partners to understand pathways into serious and organised crime and put in place interventions for at-risk individuals.

Early identification, followed by mitigating action, can prevent some individuals from being drawn into serious and organised crime, and deter reoffending. We want partners to work together to make the best possible use of existing programmes and develop new approaches."