As with ‘non-cyber’ crime, the perps range from Nation-States to organised crime networks to teenage kids. Perhaps by understanding the mindsets we can begin to understand the problem. A bit. Best to begin with the psychology of teenage hackers.
One of the ‘problems’ is that people do online what they wouldn’t do in real life. Connected, we are detached from each other, our nuanced communications reduced to the digital equivalent of shouting abuse at fellow car drivers who swerve into our lane. Only it’s more than that. Our digital presence can take on an identity all of its own, a digital persona, and that persona can be more influential, more exciting, more alive, than the one IRL. (In Real Life)
Here’s how Brian Lord from PGITL describes the situation.
Twenty years ago there were checks and balances growing up, parents tended to know roughly where the kids were and what they were doing, the school teachers knew the parents, as did the local police when they needed to, and peer groups were small, a dozen maybe. Life was goodish, and these societal checks and balances tended to stop young people being overly criminal.
Now, in 2016, most teenagers spend more time interacting online than offline. So where are the checks and balances now, and who are their peers?
Ones thing is for sure. The parents can’t answer that. And nor can the teachers. And online, there are no local police. Nor is the peer group restricted by age, or location, it can number thousands, and many of them have an un-connected online and offline identities. And the places to meet are unlimited.
For one generation, this is worrying. For the other, this is normal. There’s a gap, native and non-native digitals, and it’s wide. The real world checks and balances, the police, teachers, society, these have had hundreds of years to develop and embed within society and have evolved hand in glove with society as it changed. The digital mutation that is the Internet has none of the old World legacy, and youngsters can spend most of their time in groups of other people who have normalised what technically is cyber crime. Maybe it starts with hacking a school friend’s facebook page because they dissed them on Kik. It’s like tagging a wall. No big deal. Being initiated into the world of cyber crime is very easy; the slope unperceivable when it starts. Talking through Xbox, playing COD, already they are in a world that excludes their parents, the authorities, the teachers, the police, everyone and everything non-virtual. It’s now normal to have dual identities, one online, one offline. Normal is relative to one’s peers.
Would a fifteen-year-old walk into a bank and rob it, just to see if they could get onto the league tables of coolest bank hacks? And yet digitally, it’s virtual act. Not real. Truly there are two Worlds now. The real World is where you spend most time, where you have the most connections, the most friends, hold the most influence, develop the most experience, and where you feel most like yourself.
For some of us, the real world is the sky, the streets, the city. For others, the real world is much bigger, much more exciting, and holds way more potential. And as a teenager you can make much more money there too.