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.

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.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 4:52am

    Criminal gateways everywhere

    While they've got the attention of hysterical parents, they should take the time to highlight other potential 'criminal gateways'.

    Let a kid fiddle with taking stuff apart and putting it back together, and they might end up trashing houses for laughs. Or get a job designing and/or repairing stuff.

    Let a kid play around in the dirt and try their hand at gardening and the next thing you know they've got a dozen-acre weed farm. Or go into more legitimate farming.

    Let a kid watch shows about automobiles and how they're put together and before you know it they're out stealing cars and stripping them for parts. Or I suppose get a job in the field of automobile repair.

    Let a kid get away with blatant lies and misrepresentations of the facts and the next thing you know they go into politics, lying through their teeth in order to further their own careers, or fearmongering for the same reason.

    Truly, the threats to the minds and morals of tomorrow's youth are legion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:12am

      Re: Criminal gateways everywhere

      I see what you did there!

      You INTENTIONALLY left out the Science & Chemistry sets didn't you! You can make things EXPLODE with those!!!

      Whooppsss... we just got flagged by the American and UK "Spy & National Security Agencies"!

      What a bunch of NOBS!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:44am

      Re: Criminal gateways everywhere

      So, basically, what you're saying is that any sufficiently advanced knowledge of ANY part of today's world can be used for good or for bad?

      Duh.

      Maybe we need to set up some 'hacking' fora to teach kids how politicians use tools like media manipulation to distribute propaganda and 'awareness'? Maybe we can teach them to see though these veils and maybe, eventually, give them the skills to 'hack the political trade'?

      (and organise some effective peacetalks in the middle east?)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:27am

      Re: Criminal gateways everywhere

      If you let kids walk it could be a gateway to criminal jaywalking.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:39am

      Re: Criminal gateways everywhere

      Gateways to the parade of horribles begins with birth. We must stop this birth thingy in order to prevent all possible horribles. All possible horribles are more horrible than the world can accept, and failure to address gateways to horribles is criminal in and of itself. Arrest anyone giving birth (or having sex as that is a gateway to giving birth) because we must prevent gateways to horribles we cannot abide by (as defined by Corporate Sovereignty claims, as the results of hearings are irrelevant) in order to have a better world (as defined by Corporate Sovereignty claims, as the results of hearings are irrelevant).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      me, 24 Apr 2017 @ 9:18am

      Re: Criminal gateways everywhere

      Fear mongered and nonsense. The press are parasitic scum and dont even what what a hacker is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 24 Apr 2017 @ 11:04am

      Re: Criminal gateways everywhere

      I guess the hot new gateway is Steam.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:01pm

      Re: Criminal gateways everywhere

      Very true.

      I'm from the UK, when I was younger I was part of a modding community that hacked and modded Nokia firmware, now I am a very successful Electronics engineer designing hardware and writing firmware.

      Children should definitely be encouraged to mod and tinker with everything, they should have every opportunity to work out what they want to do in life. The next generation of great engineers is just a small mod away.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 25 Apr 2017 @ 2:29am

      Re: Criminal gateways everywhere

      Has it occurred to anyone that this is an IPR thing? Direct attempts to persuade kids to "respect" intellectual property have failed so they're trying to put them off tinkering with their stuff and "leave it to the experts" instead.

      This "criminal hacking" thing is just a smokescreen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 25 Apr 2017 @ 5:13am

      Re: Criminal gateways everywhere

      By the 'logic' the media is using in this, reporting news stories about criminals committing crimes would encourage the reader to go out an commit crimes themselves.

      The BBC is a gateway to criminal behavior!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 5:34am

    Flip the coin

    While the MPAA and RIAA will burst a blood vessel over this...
    I do owe a lot of my computer knowledge to the early days of file sharing and piracy (KaZaa/Napster days, so it has been a while...). I learned what kinds of files could be trusted, which would give me viruses, how to clean up viruses, and other very handy tricks and tips of keeping a computer clean. This sparked an interest in computer science and changed my trajectory in middle school. Now I work in tech and have a career that I thoroughly enjoy.

    Side note:
    http://blog.indeed.com/2017/01/17/cybersecurity-skills-gap-report/

    No wonder the UK has such a huge skills gap for cybersecurity professionals... you'd rather hyperventilate over their 'illegal' activity of modifying a game that they own.... rather than encourage them to make their passion a career.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      me, 24 Apr 2017 @ 9:21am

      Re: Flip the coin

      Fear mongered and nonsense. The press are parasitic scum and dont even what what a hacker is.

      The MPAA and RIAA are also parasites and need beatings.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2017 @ 12:11am

      Re: Flip the coin

      No wonder the UK has such a huge skills gap for cybersecurity professionals... you'd rather hyperventilate over their 'illegal' activity of modifying a game that they own.... rather than encourage them to make their passion a career

      You sir, are an idiot. A smart idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 6:35am

    The gaming industry is getting desperate.

    OMG Piracy ... the go to excuse for why your sucky game is not selling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:08am

      Re:

      Next time maybe try reading the article you spaz.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Cdaragorn (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:28am

        Re: Re:

        Actually, I think he read the article just fine.
        Is it really that far of a stretch to believe that some game companies constant complaining about stupid things like piracy is a big part of what lead to this complete misunderstanding about what modding a game means?

        Heck, I even see plenty of game devs whine when people mod or cheat in games they own (talking single player, not affecting other people). I think the connection between this report and that ridiculous whining to be pretty obvious.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 6:56am

    It's true. I used to mod my copy of Command & Conquer in my teen years. I would later devote myself to the evil Brotherhood of NOD. Modding made me the bad guy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:00am

    I used to modify games on Commodore PETs at school and on my Apple ][ at home. It led to learning 6502 assembly language followed by 30 years of writing accounting software.

    Kids need to be warned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:04am

      Re:

      "followed by 30 years of writing accounting software"

      At least you were thoroughly punished for your transgression.
      Are they letting you stop any time soon?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:31am

        Re: Re:

        They've gotten cruel. They've put me in charge of security.

        Including switching to Microsoft's new authentication scheme where people can automatically log into your sites and software using their Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Microsoft accounts. To allow Kaspersky anti-virus to update, I had to open holes in the firewall to servers in Russia.

        It's like being forced to dig your own grave.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:05am

    Epic Retardedness!!!!

    See World! America is not the ONLY idiot nation on this planet with clueless fucking wipes laying around or being voted into office!

    Hacking and Modding have very little to do with each other!

    I have hacked, I have modded, and I have coded! The mindset, aim, and process of each are very different.

    Well, we all have to fucking BREATH THE AIR, and if the terrorists are doing it, you must be a fucking terrorist too!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:10am

      Re: Epic Retardedness!!!!

      Isn't it like the sciences? Biology is applied chemistry, chemistry applied physics and physics applied maths. In the same way modding is applied hacking which is applied coding?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:16am

        Re: Re: Epic Retardedness!!!!

        Yes yes!!!

        Just need to liberally apply fuel containing elements with low stability to create HIGH energy reactions!

        From what I hear, people do this everyday by the BILLIONS!!!
        "When they drive!"

        World be scary YO!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:41am

      Re: Epic Retardedness!!!!

      Leave Sea World out of this.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:56am

        Re: Re: Epic Retardedness!!!!

        lol... can't

        They have been trying to get dolphins and whales to move bombs and track/hack submarines with portable equipment! Kids might accidentally explode them if they find the 00000000 codes!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:08am

      Re: Epic Retardedness!!!!

      It doesn't even matter that hacking and modding are different. Every single thing that I can think about has two sides (with a large grey area). You can use any skill for good and bad. They are trying to equal the skill of hacking with being a bad person (and then stupidly trying to tie any computer skill with hacking).
      Fact is that there are plenty of good guy hackers out there... they are called security experts and tech innovators. I am quite sure that most parents wouldn't mind their kid becoming one of those.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:37am

        Re: Re: Epic Retardedness!!!!

        Yep, it is only about establishing precedent for calling anything or anyone potential criminal material.

        For government the only effort is to find ways to call people, they have decided they don't like, criminals.

        This is the same fuzzy logic that Police use to say people are acting suspicious. No human being can get from point A to point B without at least doing multiple suspicious things! Looking at a cop is suspicious, not looking at a cop is suspicious, avoiding a cops gaze is suspicious, looking uncomfortable around a cop is suspicious. Not telling everything a cop DEMANDS you to tell them is suspicious, standing up for your rights is not just suspicious, its also fucking illegal and can get you charged with obstruction, disorder conduct, and/or arrested for avoiding arrest!

        Yea, I think that about covers it!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 9:10am

        Re: Re: Epic Retardedness!!!!

        Those terms are only different to pedants and people who buy into the media's definition of "hacking."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:05am

    what about English?

    In the UK, 99.99% of hackers speak English?
    Very suspicious......unwitting brainwashing via language memes?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:14am

    Paid to be afraid

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:16am

    And breathing may be the gateway to death.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:17am

    Read between the lines. They're not worried about people eventually becoming hackers per se, they're worried that the consoles will be hacked to the point they'll uncover what they really are - surveillance devices. We all already know they are, but they're worried about someone having the ability to demonstrate that absolutely in a concrete irrefutable manner.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:18am

    Parents beware, creativity in kids is on the rise. Creativity leads to drug use, violence and becoming a criminal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:21am

    Video Game Developers Creating New Generation of Dangerous Criminals!!!

    Websites and forums which provide cheat codes and modifications for video games are making it increasingly easy for young people to develop criminal skills

    Maybe if the developers of said video games didn't require criminal-like skills to mod their games, then people wouldn't develop criminal skills while doing so?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:25am

    Truth

    Wow, my life really has always felt like a bumpy roller coaster ride. With up, up, down, down, left right, left, right, And dealing with all the B, A, A, B personality types... Damn you Nintendo. #NintendoRuinedMyLife.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:30am

    TES Script for Morrowind and Oblivion was the first programming language I learned. Now I am proficient with C++ and Java.

    It is terrifying how far Britain has fallen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:35am

    People, this is like saying drinking water is a gateway to becoming a Somali pirate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:47am

    strange. i thought their latest bull shit was that 'criminal gangs are selling Kodi Boxes'!

    let's face it, neither the UK Police nor the PIPCU have the guts to go after any real criminals and the entertainment haven't got the balls to back them doing that! all they want to do is go after the almost penniless parent trying to get a music track so their kids can stay up with the more fortunate, wealthy kids in the class! there are very few ordinary parents who are going to be able to afford a reasonable and sensible defense and even fewer who will take any sort of revenge on them!! all in all, a pretty safe bet to get big publicity for locking up 'serious copyright infringers'!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 7:55am

    Definitely think it is paranoid but the article did have a good solution. Just make sure they have good mentors and role models. People are influenced by the environment, not the tools. The tools themselves can be used for either good or evil but that can be said for nearly everything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:23am

    Gotta agree with Alec Muffett here. I did a lot of game modding in high school and college. The skills I learned there were very influential in helping me get into a high-paying career as a software developer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:26am

    Websites and forums which provide cheat codes

    ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA

    Fear my 133+ h@x0zr sk1lls!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digitari, 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:36am

    Hackers, Hacking and Hacks

    Hacking is bad, it means you are smoking too much and smoking is bad. Hacks are bad reporters, they promulgate "fake news" and hacking hacks are bad reporters that smoke.

    So yes, hacking hacks are the bad hackers. they cheat people out of the truth!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:38am

    Some people just go dumb when subject is anything tech

    I am currently in my last year of a 5 year education of becoming an infrastructure Data Technician and at several points we were taught about IT security. Part of that lesson is often around various methods of hacking, what vulnerabilities were used and how. Basically in order to fight the guys who does the hacking and makes the malware, we had to learn to think like them.
    For a while there, my own family didn't get that concept, they thought me a criminal and were very angry that the educational institution I attend, taught such subjects.
    What is it about technology that makes some people stupid? What is so hard to understand about the difference between knowing about a subject and how you apply that knowledge when the "magic" computers are involved?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:56am

      Re: Some people just go dumb when subject is anything tech

      It's not the computers. It's the the fact that you know about it period.

      There are many (morons) that believe that knowing something "bad" will entice you to do "bad". (Corruption). Or that "bad" is impossible to use for "good". (Forbidden Fruit.) These people can't discern the difference between good and bad uses, because they constantly defer such judgement to others whom they deem to know more about the subject. They will always consider someone learning about the subject to be a risk until proven otherwise, of which that proof must often come from the same people they deferred judgement to.

      Long story short, it's a kind of person who believes only someone who is proven to be righteous can be trusted to wield such power responsibly, and therefore such power should be kept hidden from the unwashed masses to prevent it's abuse. Anything that violates this premise will be lashed out at by them. So your best option for avoiding their outrage, is to simply avoid telling them about it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TripMN, 24 Apr 2017 @ 9:37am

      Re: Some people just go dumb when subject is anything tech

      Explain it to them using standard professions that they should *hopefully* understand.

      Take a locksmith for example. They learn how to pick locks as part of their training and carry around a set of lock-picking tools with them (at least my friend's dad did). If they are picking the lock of your door to steal stuff, then they are doing it for bad, but if they are picking it because you locked yourself out at 2am, then they are doing good.

      Tech security is the same. If you don't know the vulnerabilities of the locks or how others might gain access, how are you to build better security?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 12:54pm

        Re: Re: Some people just go dumb when subject is anything tech

        I was a bit more dramatic in my approach.
        One of them is a mechanic and I asked him how many people he had killed by sabotaging the brakes since he had the knowledge to do it.

        A bit over the top maybe, but it helped putting things into perspective for them. It should just be so painfully obvious.
        I sometimes miss the "good old days" of being consider just a weirdo and a nerd for my passion, compared to today's mix of "uhhh magic!" and "Arrrgh black magic!".
        It is just a profession like any other.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Howard II, 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:44am

    'cos I'm a criminal

    It all started when I performed the 'aspiration glitch' in Forza Motorsport 4, in order to get cars into races they wouldn't normally be eligible for.

    Now I install unauthorised modified firmware on real life cars, in clear breach of the EULA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 8:46am

    Good job they didn't ask any of us 80's kids - the amount of PEEK'ing and POKE'ing we did back then...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 10:37am

    Ignore authority.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 24 Apr 2017 @ 11:52am

    same FROM the old days..

    Hackers will destroy everything..
    MOVIES about this from the past..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2017 @ 2:18pm

    Can't trust those cheat codes.

    Man, with just IDDQD, IDKFA, and IDSPISPOPD, I will be hacking you all and there'll be nothing you can do about it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2017 @ 3:03pm

    Oh Nooos!

    Children running in the halls are a gateway to all manner of bad behaviors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2017 @ 10:54pm

    After reading this, I've changed my mind. We really do need laws banning Fake News. Maybe then we can block this sort of crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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