Teen cybercrime still has a seriously 'sexy' problem


Today is Safer Internet Day, which usually has little effect on our lives beyond revealing a few new cyber-related stats.

For example, Kaspersky Lab has revealed that one in ten 16-19 year olds in the UK know someone who has engaged in cyber activities that could be considered illegal, which includes everything from cyberbullying to DDoSing and hacking.

The same poll - which surveyed 1,556 16-19 year olds over a period of 10 days - also found that a third would be impressed if a friend hacked a bank and replaced its homepage with a cartoon.

Additionally, one in ten teens would be impressed if a friend hacked the air traffic control system of a "local airport", and 18% impressed if a friend hacked into a celebrity email account and found private photos.

While one in ten knowing someone related in cybercrime might not be a hugely shocking stat, the others reflect the way in which attitudes to online and real world crimes differ.

Speaking on a call with Kaspersky and techradar, Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, Consumer and Business Psychologist at University College, said part of the problem is that cybercrimes, particularly activities like hacking, are still largely "glamorised" by the media.

Sex education

"It's actually sexy," he said. "It's something people aspire to do because it proves to one that you have the technical skills to do something."

The other problem, he added, is the disconnect between the act and its consequences, particularly when it comes to activities like downloading pirated movies. "We often don't realise that the digital activity is actually quite similar to the physical one," he said.

"They don't have an essence of what the implications of one's actions are in an online sphere."

Speaking on the TalkTalk hacks, he said that it was a good example of where cybercrime has much larger consequences that are rarely felt by the perpetrators. "If [companies] are losing so much income, that means people are losing jobs."

"In reality we need to present what that actually means"

Tsivrikos calls for more case studies and educating teenagers about "how we behave on a digital platform", something that is currently lacking from the national curriculum.

Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab, David Emm, also added that more of an "ethical handrail" is needed to teach teens about the reality of cybercrimes.

Hugh Langley

Hugh Langley is the ex-News Editor of TechRadar. He had written for many magazines and websites including Business Insider, The Telegraph, IGN, Gizmodo, Entrepreneur Magazine, WIRED (UK), TrustedReviews, Business Insider Australia, Business Insider India, Business Insider Singapore, Wareable, The Ambient and more.

Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider covering Google and Alphabet, and has the unfortunate distinction of accidentally linking the TechRadar homepage to a rival publication.