Hackers Learn How to Use Their Skills to Fight Cyber Crimes in Hacker 'Rehab'

A new National Crime Agency (NCA) scheme sends British teenage hackers to cyber crime rehabilitation where they learn about the responsible use of their cyber-skills. U.K.'s first "rehab" for hackers teaches these teenage cyber criminals skills to transform them into security experts.

The first weekend camp was held in Bristol this month, which was attended by seven young men where they were taught ways to earn money legitimately using their skills.

The offenders were arrested or have received letters warning them that their online activity had been tracked. They had all been caught committing crimes online like defacing websites, taking servers offline and taking over restricted networks.

At camp, they learned about security skills, including forensic analysis, network protection and mounting attacks on companies known as red teaming in order to the organizations on their networks' vulnerabilities.

One of the participants shared that he discovered his hacking talent when he accidentally knocked out a primary school's network. He then experimented with his newfound skills by putting it to malicious use as a way of dealing with bullying at school. His biggest exploit was an attack on a company website that left the organization struggling to recover after spending a huge sum to fix the damage.

"Cyber crime has become easier to commit with the proliferation of easy-to-access tools, tutorials and online forums to share idea," said Richard Jones, NCA Prevent manager. "[T]here is great value in reaching young people before they become involved in cyber crime and even those already on the fringes of criminality -- when their skills can still be a force for good," he added.

If the trial is successful, the NCA plans to roll it out across the country for other young hackers. The two-day camp may have reached its objective based on participants' reaction. "Now I know cyber-security exists (and) it sounds like it would be something I really, really want to go into," one attendee said.

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