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Cyber Choices: Helping You Choose The Right and Legal Path

We live in a connected world that will only get bigger through the advance of new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).  For most people, these technologies are taken for granted.  However, for those who have a deep interest in understanding the detail of what happens behind the scenes, there could be a bright future ahead. Skills in coding, gaming, computer programming, cyber security or anything IT-related are in high demand and there may be many careers and opportunities available to those with an interest in these areas.

More and more young people are getting involved in cybercrime. Many do it for fun without realising the consequences of their actions - but the penalties can have an impact on their long-term future. Cyber crime is not a victimless crime and is taken extremely seriously by law enforcement.

The Cyber Choices programme was created to help people make informed choices and to use their cyber skills in a legal way.

This is a national programme co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency and delivered by Cyber Choices teams within Regional Organised Crime Units and Local Police Force Cyber Teams. To view the National Crime Agencies website, click here.

The aims of the programme are to:

  • Educate on the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and the possible consequences should they break the law.

  • Encourage individuals to make informed choices about their use of technology.

  • Deter and/or divert individuals from cyber crime.

  • Promote legal and ethical cyber opportunities.

So what is cyber crime?

Cyber offences are committed when someone is using a computer or other digital technology. There are two main types of cyber offences - There’s ‘Illegal hacking’ also known as cyber-dependent crime, where someone gains access to another person’s computer network or device without permission. The other type is where technology has been used to enhance another crime, like fraud. This Is also known as cyber-enabled crime.

Examples of illegal hacking/cyber-dependent crime include:

- Adam watches a friend entering their username and password. Adam remembers their login details and without their permission, later logs in and reads all their messages.

- Raj’s Teacher leaves their tablet on their desk. Without their permission, Raj accesses their online shopping account and buys items with the attached credit card.

- Sarah is playing an online game with a friend who scores higher than her. Sarah uses a ‘Booter’ tool knowing it will knock them offline, so she can win the game.

- Kim hacks a phone company. This hack stops some people phoning the Police when they are in danger. They didn’t mean for this to happen but they were reckless.

- Robin downloads software so they can bypass login credentials and hack into a friend’s laptop, however they’ve not had a chance to use it yet.

To find out what the Computer Misuse Act is and learn more about what type of actions are considered illegal, click here.

Consequences

Whether you learn it at school or read about it online, it is hard not to notice that the cyber world is expanding and new technologies largely influence our lives. Those with a real interest in how tech works, could have a bright future ahead. Skills in coding, gaming, cyber security or anything digital-related, are in high demand. The average salary in the UK is £36,903 whereas in tech industry, the average is £53,318. Specialised tech roles, that use cutting-edge kit, are particularly in demand and the average for that is £85,894.

Unfortunately, the digital world can also be tempting for young people for the wrong reasons. Many are getting involved in cyber crime without realising that they are breaking the law. This can have serious consequences for someone’s broader future and not just their career.

Make no mistake, cyber crime is a serious criminal offence. Law Enforcement will make every effort to arrest and prosecute offenders.

Anyone (including young people) who commits cyber crime could face:

  • A visit and warning from police or NCA officers

  • A Cease and Desist visit from police or NCA officers

  • Computers being seized and being prevented from accessing the internet

  • A penalty or fine

  • Being arrested

  • Up to life in prison for the most serious offences

 

You really don’t want a permanent criminal record, which could seriously affect your education and future career prospects. You also wouldn’t want anything that might hinder any potential overseas travel you have in mind.

So, if you want to increase your knowledge of cyber crime, make sure you’re fully aware of the Computer Misuse Act.

Positive Stories

Case study 1:

After hacking the school IT systems Sam came to the attention of the police. As part of their engagement with the police, it was decided that Sam would benefit from education on the law through the Cyber Choices programme. They really engaged with the programme so they were offered work experience with a cybersecurity organisation. Whilst there they learnt how their skills could be put to good use and the type of damage their behaviour could have caused. At the end, Sam was offered a paid contract for 4 hours a week during the school term and up to 8 hours a week in school holidays.

 

Case study 2:

Alex downloaded the WannaCry virus onto a college computer. Thankfully it didn’t spread any further. The incident was referred to the police and they have since been expelled from that college. They decided not to press charges againt Alex and a Cease & Desist visit, was carried out instead. Alex was then placed on the Cyber Choices programme. Over time, Alex was able to show a good understanding of the law and a lowered risk that he would commit cyber crime and ended up working for a cyber security company in IT maintenance and now has a bright future.

Case study 3:

Jamie was at the point of being excluded from school. This was due to the misuse of school computers and continually bypassing protection controls. Jamie also gained unauthorised access to systems and computer material. Jamie was placed on the Cyber Choices programme, where officers explained the law and why it is important to follow the school IT regulations. Once it was understood why rule breaking was unacceptable and what that meant in terms of the law, there was a distinct change in their behaviour.  Jamie ended up using these IT skills to help the school IT team to find vulnerabilities in the school network, so that they could better protect the school. Jamie’s knowledge for IT has helped gain a place at college to further develop these abilities by studying Network Security.

Help Your Child Make the Right Cyber Choices

Making a Referral

If you’re worried about someone, speak to them about legal ways for using technology and the internet, the consequences of cyber crime and show them positive ways to use their skills with resources below.  For further information, or a referral form please contact the Cyber Choices team.

If you believe you have been a victim of cyber crime then please see our contact us page for more information.

Resources for Teachers & Parents

People with impressive cyber skills are in high demand. Not just in the UK but also abroad, which means that young people may have an opportunity to travel to new places whilst learning new cyber skills. The Cyber Choices Network was created to help people make informed choices and to use their cyber skills in a legal way. If you’re looking for more information specific to you, then download one of these helpful leaflets:

Parents/Guardians/Carers Leaflet (1.87 MB)

Teachers Leaflet (1.96 MB)

The Law and Consequences of Breaking It Leaflet (426 KB)

Development Resources Leaflet (338 KB)

 

We have gathered a whole range of resources to help you develop your cyber skills. Check these out here!

 

Alternatively, Fancy a cyber challenge in a safe and legal environment? Why not try one of these online games to test your skills.

Over The Wire - Cyber War Games
Cyber Security Challenge - UK

Career Resources

Already interested in a career in the digital world? Then find out about what jobs within the tech industry match your skills. There are job profiles too where GCHQ staff talk about what they get up to in their role. You can also find out more about GCHQ’s CyberFirst programme for University Students, Apprenticeships and Summer Schools for teenagers. 

GCHQ Careers

Looking for cyber related courses? Check out future Learn.

FutureLearn