UK Crime Agency's Latest Moral Panic: Kids Modding Videogames May Be A Gateway To Becoming Criminal Hackers
from the and-reporters-lap-it-up dept
Well, it looks like we may have our latest moral panic to deal with. The UK's National Crime Agency is warning that kids modding video games may be a gateway to becoming criminal hackers:
Gaming websites could be spawning a new breed of cybercriminals, according to new research which claims that young people are being indoctrinated into hacking crimes via free and easily-accessible internet pages.
Websites and forums which provide cheat codes and modifications for video games are making it increasingly easy for young people to develop criminal skills and become involved in hacking chat rooms, a report by the U.K.'s National Crime Agency (NCA) has said.
And, of course, the press is lapping it up without any skepticism or criticism. The link above is to CNBC which just assumes the conclusions of the report must be accurate. Then there's the BBC that also parrots the report without question. At least that one admits that this report was based on "a small number of interviews" conducted by the NCA, but then jumps in full bore with the moral panic:
At the heart of the NCA's report is a simple but worrying conclusion: the internet is creating a new kind of criminal.
Young people who in the real world wouldn't dream of committing a crime are, in their online world, stealing other people's data, vandalising websites, taking down servers. Breaking the law, causing real damage to real victims.
Next thing you know, we're going to see advertisements and concerned local newscasts warning parents to watch out for their kids modding games or visiting cheat forums. The BBC's report goes full-on with the scaremongering:
This world can seem very seductive. Where you can make "friends" quickly and easily and you are praised for your skills, rather than being criticised for being a "nerd". But it is also a place where the vulnerable or naive can become criminals without quite realising what they are doing.
The bad news is that suspects are getting younger. Seventeen is the average age, according to the National Cyber Crime Unit, but some are as young as 12.
Of course, all of this ignores that the vast majority of people who mod games or use cheat codes don't go on to become criminal hackers.
— Alec Muffett (@AlecMuffett) April 21, 2017
In this age where having more people knowledgeable about computers and programming is important for future innovation, these kinds of scaremongering reports do a hell of a lot of damage. Lots of really smart techies got their programming chops started by messing around with video games. Having parents stop them from tinkering because of this overblown report of how it's a "gateway" to crime could do a lot of damage.