Gaming could be a gateway to cybercrime for many youngsters, the National Crime Agency has suggested in a new report published this week.
The report, called Pathways Into Cyber Crime, includes details and conclusions from debriefs with eight individuals involved in cyber criminality, as well as data gleaned from more than 80 ‘cease and desist visits' to individuals who have been identified as being involved on the fringes of cybercrime.
In its debriefs, it found that a large proportion of offenders began hacking with gaming cheat websites and ‘modding' (game modification) forum, before progressing to criminal hacking forums.
In one example, an offender who sold distributed denial of service (DDoS) tools and botnet services, and was a member of a hacking collective, said he played Call of Duty on the Xbox when he was 13, and then searched for and shared cheats for Xbox games online.
He then spent time on a popular gaming forum and community website where he became interested in ‘modding' and would identify new cheats and hacks for games.
After believing it gave him credibility and popularity, he moved onto other forums, including Hackforums.net.
After an argument with a fellow user over a game on one of the forums, the user disrupted the subject's internet connection, which made him motivated to understand how this could be done.
He then found a ‘booting' programme and began to use it, and started learning what else he could do by watching tutorials on hacker forums and YouTube.
"Once he had mastered the booting software he began to learn about Remote Access Trojans. ‘Subject 1' (the offender) said Dark Comet was very popular on Hackforums and very easy to get hold of.
"Subject 1 also wanted to learn about botnets and how to build them. He started building IRC botnets and would provide bots for other users. He progressed onto how to use servers to grow botnets," the NCA claimed.
The NCA's ‘cease and desist' visits also indicated that gaming played a part in customers' interest in cybercrime.
In an investigation into the customers of Blackshades malware, a remote access Trojan, eight of 47 respondents said they had heard about the malware through a gaming or other forum.
A second investigation into the customers of Lizardstresster.su, a website offering a DDoS-for-hire service, found that the majority first became involved with tech and computing through gaming.
Fourteen of the 23 who responded to questions said that gaming peaked their interest in technology, followed by general interest (4), school (2), family (2) and friends (1).
"The results reinforce the debrief intelligence, illustrating that the majority of those engaged in, or on the periphery of, cybercrime, become involved via an interest in computer gaming," the NCA claimed.
"We assess that it is likely that these results would be replicated across all UK individuals engaged in cyber-dependent criminality," it added.
The report also found that a 'sense of accomplishment' helped drive youth into cybercrime, with the satisfaction from learning and applying new skills providing part of the reward.
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