back to article National Crime Agency: Your kid could be a nasty interwebs hacker

The National Crime Agency (NCA) yesterday launched a campaign targeting "the UK's youngest cybercriminals", which – despite what was a genuine attempt to connect with both technically inclined youngsters and their Luddite parents – prompted ridicule and disbelief. The campaign claims to be "aimed at educating the parents of 12 …

  1. hplasm
    Big Brother

    Signs for Parents

    Is your child not obsessed by 1D? (other flash-in-the-pans are available)

    Does your child prefer University Challenge to Strictly?

    Has your child expressed a dislike for Windows 10?

    Can your child count? In hexadecimal?

    If you answered yes or what?? to any or all of these questions, then s/he's probably a danger to the Powers that Be.

    Expect a knock at the door citizen- you're all due for ReEd.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Signs for Parents

      counting in Hex? Nah, Octal is where it is at.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Boffin

        Re: Signs for Parents

        Binary is better, 4 and 6 are rude numbers.

      2. 404
        Headmaster

        Re: Signs for Parents

        01001111 01100011 01110100 01100001 01101100 00111111 00100000 01001000 01100101 01111000 00111111 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01100110 01101111 01101111 01101100 01110011 00101110 00101110 00101110 00100000 01000010 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01110111 01101000 01100101 01110010 01100101 00100000 01101001 01110100 00100111 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110100*

        *How quaint, El Reg forums don't do binary...

      3. channel extended

        Re: Signs for Parents

        At one time I leaned to multiply in hex. I was writing in 68000 asm.

    2. BlartVersenwaldIII

      Re: Signs for Parents

      Remind me all too much of the ye olde but enjoyably daft Is Your Son a Computer Hacker?

      Don't think they ever managed to bring Linyos Torovoltos to justice.

      Edit: ninja'd by SolidSquid below.

      1. Richard Taylor 2

        Re: Signs for Parents

        Brilliant - thanks for the pointer

      2. SolidSquid

        Re: Signs for Parents

        Eh, getting it in first isn't that great when you forget to add the link to source for anyone who hasn't seen it before

        1. Richard Taylor 2
          Thumb Down

          Re: Signs for Parents

          Link worked fine for me.3 hours ago.

    3. John H Woods
    4. Frumious Bandersnatch

      Re: Signs for Parents

      Does your child answer "yes" when asked "do you like daddy or chips?"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this a routine thing?

    Several times a decade a government-related source produces a checklist of signs that your teenager may be a teenager... I mean may be a specific type of miscreant.

    When I were a lad, being socially awkward, sleeping funny and being evasive meant we were on drugs. A few weeks ago it meant you were a potential terrist and now this.

    Wallies.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Is this a routine thing?

      When I were a lad, being socially awkward, sleeping funny and being evasive meant we were going through puberty.

      Theresa May probably wants to ban it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is this a routine thing?

        It seems to me that they banned it years ago and just keep rebooting the exact excuse. Now it's hackerstuff.

  3. Blank-Reg
    Black Helicopters

    Arsewipes.

    Definitely channeling Inspector Grim there:

    "Why don't we change it round? Presume everybody in the country is guilty of something and lock em up. And anyone who can, to the satisfaction of a senior judge, prove themselves to be wholly and fundamentally innocent will be released"

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Terrorism terrorism terrorism

    "We don't want to dissuage children from pursuing these skills," The Register was told. "We don't want parents to prematurely terrorise their children."

    Isn't that the terrorists' job?

    And what does dissuage mean? Is it like terrorism?

    1. Bc1609

      Re: what does dissuage mean?

      I think it's one of those Old French words that was disused (or fell into disusage, if you prefer) during the great vowel shift. If I recall correctly, it means "help help I'm being spoken by a cretin who can't hire a decent editor".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Terrorism terrorism terrorism

      It means "We're too technically clueless to use a spell checker so consider us experts on cybercrime".

    3. Uncle Slacky
      Headmaster

      Re: Terrorism terrorism terrorism

      Trying to dissuade and assuage at the same time?

    4. DJSpuddyLizard

      Re: Terrorism terrorism terrorism

      "We don't want parents to prematurely terrorise their children."

      OK, I'd like to know WHEN the appropriate time is....

      1. x 7

        Re: Terrorism terrorism terrorism

        I terrorise my son when he tries chatting up the women I bring home......randy little ****

  5. Bc1609

    Slightly less silly than it sounds

    While that headline "Warning signs of cyber crime" is a bit Daily Mail, the advice below is rather more sensible:

    "If a young person is showing some of these signs try and have a conversation with them about their online activities."

    One would hope that it wouldn't be necessary for a government agency to provide such basic parenting advice, but o tempora, etc.. Also, it's worth having a gander at the full page, which includes a nice little section on how to use your powers for good (CREST, tech apprenticeships, game design, etc.). Maybe they could add a link to that 10k-a-day article for good measure.

    1. SolidSquid

      Re: Slightly less silly than it sounds

      Is there really a need to talk about "using your powers for good" though? A lot of kids are probably just working with computers for fun, or maybe just looking to keep a Minecraft server running for their friends.

      This kind of reads as "If your kids are interested in computers you should make sure they stick to the approved learning paths, as being self taught or a hobbiest risks becoming a criminal!", which I worry would result in parents pressuring their kids to start doing classes/certification they're not interested in because it's the "right" and "safe" way to learn it, resulting in a kid who might have developed an interest to the point they did it professionally instead burning out and losing interest in the field

      Basically, while talking with kids about career paths is good, and making parents aware of what they can do to help their kids, this seems to do so at the cost of stigmatising people just doing it for fun

      1. Bc1609

        Re: Slightly less silly than it sounds

        Is there really a need to talk about "using your powers for good" though?

        Well, as I said, one would hope that there weren't a need for any of this. However, given that they've decided to do the whole "careful now" thing, I'd rather they talked about positive applications instead of pretending they don't exist and tarring all activities with the same brush.

        ...you should make sure they stick to the approved learning paths...

        Maybe we're looking at different documents but that's not the impression I got at all. Providing links to relevant educational resources isn't the same thing as saying "you must use these and only these". They also suggest that one search for local computer clubs.

        Looking at the whole page, instead of the "coding is bad mkay" section quoted above, it seems to me to be a good-faith attempt to inform young people of the limits of the law. When I was a teenager it was considered a harmless prank to hack someone else's accounts or knock them offline during a game of Dota or similar - we certainly didn't think we were breaking the law. Maybe we wouldn't have behaved any differently had we known, but maybe we would, and I'd rather people be informed than ignorant.

        1. SolidSquid

          Re: Slightly less silly than it sounds

          I don't think they were intentionally pushing for that, but I do think they could have made a positive mention of the self-study side of things, maybe recommending some resources the kids could look at themselves (ideally with the parent's support/help). I just worry that their focus of "If your kid is doing this they could end up as criminals" and "Here's some ways to do it commercially" might result in parents (who largely aren't familiar with the field) trying to stop their kid from doing things which could be genuinely beneficial to the kid's future because they take this too literally

  6. Graham Marsden
    Facepalm

    See icon for details...

  7. The Axe

    Porn

    Parents, if your kid is showing signs as listed then he has probably discovered porn, not terrorism.

    1. Grikath

      Re: Porn

      it would most certainly explain the Evasion bit..

      Before you know it your old dad wants to exchange bookmarks... ;)

    2. fajensen

      Re: Porn

      From experience - When the accumulated mal-ware bricks their computer or interferes with CounterStrike etcetera "dad" gets to clean it all off again. This is the time to have "The Talk", like "Always use an ad- and cookie- blocker", "Always Lie. Never give any true information on the internet", "You don't need to become a member of anything - Pr0nHub is there", and "You know, Firefox has an Anonymous mode and that way Mum & Dad won't see your History so easily".

      It fixes itself at about 19, but, keep those disk images and snapshots handy from 12 and onwards.

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Porn

        Oh how times change. For my generation it was us kids (as was) who had to explain the facts of life-on-the-internet to our dads.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Over the past few years the NCA has seen the people engaging in cyber crime becoming younger and younger."

    Bollocks, what they're seeing is that as they've gained more resources they're finding it ever easier to go after low hanging fruit whilst ignoring more serious issues.

    1. Roo

      "Over the past few years the NCA has seen the people engaging in cyber crime becoming younger and younger."

      I think it's more likely that they investigated two people in two years, one of whom was 24, the other of whom was 17. :)

    2. fajensen
      Facepalm

      The chemistry of Law Enforcement and Metrics Driven Decision Making.

      Bonus-related Performance Goals like "Police Hours (Wasted) per Miscreant in Jail" becomes easier to meet if first one increases the scope of potential crimes and then only prosecute the easiest targets. At least those kiddies and amateurs will learn the craft properly while in jail and make a proper career of it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Erm...

    Almost all of those questions can be answered with most teens sudden interest in anatomy.

    * Is your child spending all of their time online? (Yes, Most likely looking for ways and means to crack net-nanny security and the neighbours wifi)

    * Are they interested in coding? Do they have independent learning material on computing? (Books like "How to crack net-nanny in C#", "C# for dummies", "Linux for beginners", "How to Bash one's way out", etc)

    * Do they have irregular sleeping patterns? (Only if the their interest in coding has paid off...)

    * Do they get an income from their online activities, do you know why and how? (Selling Bazza down the road some videos and dodgy digital copies of "How to crack net-nanny in C#", would tell parents they are giving computer lessons)

    * Are they resistant when asked what they do online? (Hell yes, I doubt the parents would want to know about the donkey punching midget shemales...)

    * Do they use the full data allowance on the home broadband? (Yes, and anyone else's they can crack into!)

    * Have they become more socially isolated? (I'm sure you could invite others over but...)

    .

    EDIT: Damn, The Axe beat me to it with a two liner...

    1. John G Imrie

      donkey punching midget shemales

      You can get donkey punching midget shemales on the internet? Dam I must be looking in the wrong places :-)

      1. x 7

        Re: donkey punching midget shemales

        I'm sure "punching" is an euphemism

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope they don't ask my parents. I'd be right in it.

  11. gnasher729 Silver badge

    "Richard Jones, head of the NCCU's Prevent team, said: "Over the past few years the NCA has seen the people engaging in cyber crime becoming younger and younger. "

    My wife asks how she can engage in cyber crime. Must be cheaper than botox and more effective.

  12. HollyHopDrive

    So on the one hand....

    .....they want youngsters to learn "coding" at school but on the other hand if they show any interest in it they are a cyber criminal? What the fcuk.

    What next? Do your children like maths. Then they must be trying to invent new cryptology ciphers to hide those god damn terrorists.

    I bought my some a book on Python the other day.........am I turning him into a criminal?

    What a bunch of arse!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I bought my [son] a book on Python ...

      Surely you should have got him the original TV series, not a book...

      1. Graham Marsden
        Coat

        Re: I bought my [son] a book on Python ...

        What, not even the Monty Python Papperbok?

    2. Kristian Walsh

      Re: So on the one hand....

      The checklist/questionnaire reads like the nonsense it is if you substitute "photography", "dressmaking", "playing guitar", "jewellery making", "singing", "bicycle or car mechanics", "drawing", "baking", "carpentry", "pottery", or basically any other hobby that a teenager might have that could yield them some occasional extra cash.

      The general rule is simpler: if your kid is coming into a lot of money, and they can't adequately explain where it's coming from, you need to consider the possibility that they're engaged in some form of illegal activity.

      At a time when the UK gov. is desperately trying to get children into "Coding", it's funny to see another government agency trying to scare parents into dissuading them from doing just that.

  13. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    Dear NCA...

    Much of my programming as a yoof was self-taught through independent learning material. I also had irregular sleep patterns and was (and still am) socially introverted.

    Yet somehow I failed to become a master cyber-criminal.

    Please tell me what I did wrong.

    I know lots of people with similar upbringing, yet mysteriously they aren't evil hackers bent on social collapse either. Did they do something wrong too?

    Sincerely, Jimmy

    PS. You clearly don't have a brain cell between you. Stop conflating puberty and a desire to better oneself with signs of criminal tendencies. Surprised you're not pushing phrenology to identify likely crims.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear NCA...

      "Surprised you're not pushing phrenology to identify likely crims."

      A visit to the custody suite of your local police station will demonstrate that many police officers prefer instead to use retro-phrenology ((C) Sir Pterry) to try and prevent future crime!

  14. Vinyl-Junkie
    Black Helicopters

    Once again...

    ..a government agency is using 1984 as an instruction manual.

  15. SolidSquid

    Is your child using "Quake"? Have they become obsessed with "Lunix"?

  16. x 7

    my son shows virtually all of those warning markers..........I'd better have a word and see if I can borrow some money off him. Sounds like he should be earning more than me........

  17. Chris G Silver badge

    Children, the future

    Our children could be, the next president or prime minister, a lawyer or politician or a policeman or a terrorist .

    Lock them all up I say , they are potentially dangerous!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "aimed at educating the parents of 12-15 year old boys"

    my daughter won't fit those parameters, what a relief! ;)

    p.s. but surely, there must a confidential phone line to report such extremists? As a law-abiding citizen I would not hesitate one minute! Mind you, if I DO hesitate and THEY get here first... well, some relatives have already been convicted for NOT reporting their loved ones' unhealthy interest, right?

    1. BenR

      Re: "aimed at educating the parents of 12-15 year old boys"

      Quite.

      I notice noone brings out the "ingrained sexism" card when it's aimed at men.

      Although in this case i think both sides of the sexual divide would be well within their rights to be equally offended.

      1. Steven Roper

        Re: "aimed at educating the parents of 12-15 year old boys"

        "I notice noone brings out the "ingrained sexism" card when it's aimed at men."

        Doesn't surprise me though. Since the exodus of Page and Worstall, and the increasingly Mailesque tenor of many of the articles, coupled with the upvote/downvote ratios on gender/identity politics-related comments, I rather suspect the SJW army is gradually making inroads on our beloved El Reg.

        It was inevitable I suppose, those buggers will leave no stone unturned when it comes to proselytising their one true faith of equality for all except white males. And teenage boys seem to be a particularly favoured target by police, media, educational institutions and just about everyone else.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We don't want parents to prematurely terrorise their children."

    but we DO want parents to terrorise their children AT THE RIGHT MOMENT!!!

  20. Edward Phillips

    I was speaking to a load of schoolkids on an IT course recently. Many of them believed that the way to immediate riches and a well paid job was to hack a high profile organisation, and then the security industry would immediately scoop them up and give them a lucrative job.

    I suggested that perhaps criminal hacking was a high-risk interview approach but they were convinced.

    Either they're right (in which case the NCA has a different problem) or they're wrong (and convincing them of that would be more useful than telling their parents to check their browsing history).

    1. SolidSquid

      In fairness I heard/read similar stories when younger, although I suspect now that the industry is becoming more structured (with training courses etc) it's going to become higher risk for less reward than just going to uni and studying security. It also depends on what kind of hack it is (DDOS isn't going to get you anywhere) and who the people you hacked were (could end up being blackballed because you targeted someone with clout in the industry)

      A better approach would probably be to point them to the Pwn2Own contests, where there have been some fairly young winners who made good money doing the kind of hacks which could get you picked up by an agency later on in a high profile and positive way (having a Pwn2Own winner on the books would probably be good PR for a company), while at the same time removing the risk of jail time

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear NCA

    If you want to feel the collar of those involved in dubious activities online look in the phone book under A for Alphabet (Google moved address, you probably didn't notice), F for Fecalbook and M for Microsoft, you should find contact details readily available. These persons carry out online stalking on a daily basis and/or create easily exploitable software for victims that enables major cybercrime.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shades of V for Vendetta

    I thought they'd arrest him, but when they found a linux magazine in his house, they had him executed.

  23. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Keith Vaz says National Crime Agency is more like Keystone Cops than FBI

    Although I don't agree with this Tories politics, his labeling the National Crime Agency as more like Keystone Cops is right on!

    And how much is this outfit costing the UK taxpayer?

    1. Roj Blake

      Re: Keith Vaz says National Crime Agency is more like Keystone Cops than FBI

      Keith Vaz is Labour, not Tory.

      1. x 7

        Re: Keith Vaz says National Crime Agency is more like Keystone Cops than FBI

        "Keith Vaz is Labour, not Tory."

        Does Keith Vaz know that?

  24. sysconfig

    What the...

    So exactly one years ago, gov publishes this:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/maths-and-science-must-be-the-top-priority-in-our-schools-says-prime-minister

    (Especially section "World-leading digital and coding")

    Now, interest in coding is considered a warning sign for kids to become cyber crims. Well, looks like the government has done their best to criminalise the young generation then. Well done, morons.

    /me wonders if politicians (and by extension all sorts of agencies) *ever* think before they open their cake holes these days...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keeping a careful eye on my daughter

    She has already hacked mummys iphone and my Asus tablet, and been caught deleting browser history from my PC; and she has declared that the PC I gave her 2 years ago is too old and she needs a new one.

    If I catch her organising DDOS attacks, hacking into banks etc, I will probably have to threaten her with "no more nursery", or taking away her new bike (she is nearly 3).

    BTW, I dont know HOW she knows Santa is bringing her a bike, she has managed to successfully figure out which bike it is, that it has a baby carrier, and that it is hidden in the garage (since moved!!), despite never setting eyes on it, OR being able to get into the garage since I hid it there.

    1. Roo

      Re: Keeping a careful eye on my daughter

      "BTW, I dont know HOW she knows Santa is bringing her a bike, she has managed to successfully figure out which bike it is, that it has a baby carrier, and that it is hidden in the garage (since moved!!), despite never setting eyes on it, OR being able to get into the garage since I hid it there."

      You'll have to have the other talk with her, the one about how it's polite and considerate to let your parents think that they're one-step ahead. ;)

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Keeping a careful eye on my daughter

      I predict a great future for her with GHCQ.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I fit about 75% of those criterion.

    I think I'll have to turn myself into the authorities.

  27. Chris King

    The NCA says...

    "We don't want parents to prematurely terrorise their children."

    That's our job.

  28. msknight

    They've got to be kidding....

    Warning signs of cybercrime...

    The following behaviours may indicate a young person(1) is at risk of getting involved in cyber crime.

    *) Is your child spending all of their time online? (2)

    *) Are they interested in coding? Do they have independent learning material on computing? (3)

    *) Do they have irregular sleeping patterns? (4)

    *) Do they get an income from their online activities, do you know why and how? (5)

    *) Are they resistant when asked what they do online? (6)

    *) Do they use the full data allowance on the home broadband? (7)

    *) Have they become more socially isolated? (8)

    ---

    1) Young, relative to Sir Bruce Forsythe, (may he live a long life) yes.

    2) Given the IoT these days, even getting a drink from a fridge, boiling a cup of tea, making some toast or being observed by the family CCTV might be considered spending time online. Need to be more specific.

    3) Independent from who? Do you really think that Mum knows what book to buy for ACL configuration on Solaris?

    4) This is December; the season of office parties. Come on, people!

    5) Yes, it's called my job, and no, Mum doesn't see my payslip.

    6) Well, I've tried to explain, but after the first experience of glassy eyes, anyone would be resistant to a second round of explanations.

    7) The pathetically low standard of SOHO equipment already allows the neighbourhood to share the connection; how do they expect any logs to be able to pinpoint who's using all the juice. Have these people SEEN the logs that come out of SOHO routers even?

    8) Socially isolated? This is the age of social media! Who thought this one up?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Arse and elbow

    "Startlingly, the NCA listed an interest in coding and access to independent learning materials as a warning sign that children may be committing cybercrime. This is despite the Chancellor of the Exchequer throwing £20m at an Institute of Coding "for young people to gain affirmative training" in skills much needed for the future."

    See post title.

  30. Camilla Smythe

    Wouldn't have had this problem...

    If we had stuck to the dark ages...

  31. Peter Stone

    Is your child resistant when questioned about what they do online?....

    And parents will understand the reply?

    An example from my past, christmas 1982 into jan/feb 1983, I was a technician at a Polytechnic, how many would've understood an experiment we did using an analogue hall effect sensor to see if was possible to create a non-invasive tap for a RS232 cable? From my more recent past as a tech at a school, a boy was discovered with some moderately hard core porn pictures in his user area, his parents where called up the school, & I was explaining to the lad's father about checking the machine for undesirable content, & I watched his eyes glaze over. Oh well.

  32. Stevie

    Bah!

    Damn and blast those small criminal empowering Raspberry Pi guys!

  33. martinusher Silver badge

    Left Hand .... meet Right Hand

    One minute we're reading articles about how teaching coding to kids is a Good Thing.

    The next minute we're reading articles about how teaching coding to kids is a Bad Thing.

    Make up your collective minds. The reason for kids messing around on the Internet is actually a form of boredom -- the home computer hasn't got that much attraction, there's only so much you can do with graphics without getting serious so the Internet represents an almost Infinite playground with places to go and systems to explore.

    Its no different from the physical world. Kids are curious. You've just got to set boundaries -- or maybe just pose challenges (extra-curricular activity, anyone?).

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of an article from years ago...

    How to tell if your son is a computer hacker.

    http://www.adequacy.org/stories/2001.12.2.42056.2147.html

    "Does he read hacking manuals like Neuromancer or Programming In Perl?"

    "Does he use the hacking OS Lunix?"

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