The average age of individuals suspected of committing computer crime in the UK has dropped to just 17, says the country's National Crime Agency (NCA). The agency, sometimes known as "Britain's FBI," published the statistic as part of a campaign aimed at educating parents "whose children may be involved in hacking or other kinds of cyber crime." The NCA is particularly concerned about the use of prebuilt tools to target websites and computers with DDoS or RAT attacks — presumably because these sorts of methods don't require much technical skill.
DDoS and RAT attacks don't require much technical skill
The agency specifically mentions Lizard Stresser, a DDoS tool built by hacking group Lizard Squad and used to take down the online network of the PS4 and Xbox One last Christmas. It notes that a recent investigation into Lizard Stresser users ended with the arrest of seven people, all under the age of 18. It also mentions the use of Remote Access Trojan malware (otherwise known as RATs), and says that in an operation targeting users of the RAT Blackshades the average age of those arrested was 18, while the youngest purchaser was just 12 years old. RATs give hackers comprehensive control over their targets' computer and have often been connected with individuals who spy on women using their webcams.
"Over the past few years the NCA has seen the people engaging in cyber crime becoming younger and younger. We know that simply criminalizing young people cannot be the solution to this and so the campaign seeks to help motivate children to use their skills more positively," said Richard Jones, the head of the NCA, in a press statement. "These individuals are really bright and have real potential to go on to exciting and fulfilling jobs. But by choosing the criminal path they can move from low level ‘pranking’ to higher level cyber crime quite quickly."
The NSA has also released a new advert for the campaign, encouraging parents to help their children "make the right #CyberChoices":