Teenagers being recruited by criminals on video games, police warn
Detectives have warned teenagers against being recruited by organised crime groups from their bedrooms after it was revealed that more than four in five cyber criminals are gamers.
The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) lead for cyber crime said 82% of youngsters being enlisted by online criminals develop skills on video games.
Announcing a multimillion-pound cash injection into cyber crime prevention on Thursday, Derbyshire Chief Constable Peter Goodman said forces across the UK are looking to engage with the targeted teenagers - with many of them being "on the autistic spectrum".
Police also revealed that children in their early teens could be sent warnings about their activities if they are "looking to cheat online" because it could lead them to "sending malware to their school".
Chief Superintendent Chris Todd, of West Midlands Police, was asked whether police were engaging with gamers on headsets and if adverts were being placed on games to warn of the risks
He said: "Yes. We need to be creative as we possibly can.
"When you look at the individuals that are involved in that, the people we arrest, those who have that top end cyber capability, that develop some capability themselves ... 82% of those young people are gamers.
"So there's a whole network of people we can engage with more in order to divert people away from cyber crime."
Mr Todd continued: "What we are saying is, when you look at a particular group of offenders, that is those young people who are perhaps buying cyber crime services online to deliver attacks, we can look back into their history before we reach that point of engagement with them.
"And we can see that 82% of them are engaged in gaming as a pastime which presents us with an opportunity to engage with a wider group of young people who are potentially at risk of being diverted into cyber crime, and that's through experiences such as knocking competitors offline.
"But in doing that, they are developing skills which can then lead them into a position where they can transition into other areas in online criminality and those skills can be recognised.
"So if we get into those communities, we can help people to understand the risks."
Mr Goodman then added: "In addition ... if you go to certain sites as a gamer and you are looking for opportunities to cheat online, if you are of a certain age profile, you will have a message pop up from the National Crime Agency on the screen which will say 'Do you know what you're about to do is probably illegal? It's a Computer Misuse Act offence. If you want more details go here...'.
"What I will say is, these are very skilled, very talented individuals that the UK needs in their economy working effectively within legitimate organisations.
"The narrative you get from them and their parents is ... many of them are on the autistic spectrum.
"They find it very hard to have any credibility, any confidence, any traction in the real world."
Mr Goodman added: "They live in quite an enclosed space - tends to be the bedroom in the house - and they spend a lot of time online because they tend to be highly intelligent, highly technically proficient individuals, and they're saying that almost all their self-worth came through their ability to be sophisticated and successful at gaming.
"They gain a level of kudos from that - it's really easy to take the next step into sending malware to their school because they don't like the way they are treated at school, or sending some malware to the local housing office and shutting them down because mum and dad haven't got the house they want.
"We say don't stop developing your skills, but stop committing crime."