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National Crime Agency Lists Daft "Cyber Crime" Warning Signs

Gareth Halfacree

National Crime Agency Officers

Even as the UK government looks to encourage kids to learn practical technological skills like programming, its security services have begun spreading worrying misinformation that could lead parents to intervene in their child's development: that interest in computing and electronics can lead to a life of 'cyber crime.'

Even as the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport pledges £10 million to turn Manchester into the UK's official Internet of Things (IoT) demonstrator city, the National Crime Agency - formerly known as the Serious Organised Crime Agency - has issued a document warning parents, carers, and other adults to keep an eye out for an eye-popping list of warning signs of cyber crime which could threaten all the work the government has been doing to encourage an increased focus on technical proficiency in school children.

According to the National Crime Agency, the following questions if answered in the positive raise the possibility that "a young person is at risk of getting involved in cyber crime:"

  • Is your child spending all of their time online?
  • Are they interested in coding? Do they have independent learning material on computing?
  • Do they have irregular sleeping patterns?
  • Do they get an income from their online activities, do you know why and how?
  • Are they resistant when asked what they do online?
  • Do they use the full data allowance on the home broadband?
  • Have they become more socially isolated?
While the document goes on to list ways a child's interest in technology topics can be steered in a positive direction, many older makers thinking back to their youth will likely be able to tick the majority of the 'warning sign' boxes - we know we can. While the NCA's aim of helping to curb the growing trend for ne'er-do-wells to use technology for ill is to be lauded, we can't help but feel this approach is badly thought out - and, worse, could lead to negative interactions which turns the next Steve Wozniak or Tim Berners-Lee off a career in technology for good.
If a young person is showing some of these signs try and have a conversation with them about their online activities. This will allow you to assess their computer knowledge proficiency so you can understand what they are doing, explain the consequences of cyber crime and help them make the right choices.

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