National Bureau of Investigation launched a project to tackle serious cybercrime committed by young people

9.3.2021 10.00
News item

A significant number of young people, and even children, are suspected of cybercrime every year. To address this challenging trend, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has launched an early intervention project called Cybercrime Exit.

The Cybercrime Exit project targets young people aged 15 to 25 who have committed or are at risk of committing cybercrime. The project is financed by the EU Internal Security Fund. 
Similar international programmes intended to break the cycle of crime for young people have discovered that when it comes to criminal activity, even children as young as 12 can test and exceed their limits. In fact, a considerable number of those caught for serious cybercrime have been minors. In 2019, over 50 cybercrime suspects in Finland were under 25 years, of whom 17 were minors.

– With cybercrime becoming increasingly professional, it is ever more challenging to tackle it. Therefore, it is crucial that we improve our capacity to intervene as soon as young people cross the line into criminal activity so that we can prevent the situation from getting any worse, says Viivi Lehtinen, Cybercrime Exit Project Manager of the NBI.

The project seeks to tackle cyber-dependent crime committed by young people against information networks and information systems. It is run from the Cybercrime Centre at the NBI. 

– Unfortunately, hackers are still usually negatively perceived as criminals. However, white hat hackers are professionals, and their work is extremely necessary. This should be recognised as a good and important career opportunity. The Cybercrime Exit project aims to highlight the boundaries within which white hat hackers operate, to help identify the point where actions become criminal, and to encourage young people in their excellent career path, says Head of Cybercrime Centre, Senior Detective Superintendent Mikko Rauhamaa.

The project aims to create an intervention programme for breaking a cycle of crime, and to build up and enhance cooperation with organisations and other bodies for the prevention of cybercrime in future.

– More and more professionals with advanced IT skills will be needed in the future. Therefore, it is important that there is information available for children and young people on ethical and legal hacking, or penetration testing. They must understand the consequences of criminal activity and recognise their responsibility in this respect. Those who have a criminal record from their youth can find it difficult to get the job or be admitted to the place of study they want, says Detective Chief Inspector Marko Leponen of the NBI.

A hacking challenge to help young people develop their IT skills in the right direction

In the Cybercrime Exit project, the aim of cooperation with public authorities and non-governmental organisations working with young people, and cooperation with the information security sector, is to provide those who are interested in hacking with inspiring and legal opportunities for showing their knowledge and skills.

The NBI participates in the Generation Z Hack campaign, a hacking challenge aimed at 13 to 18 year olds launched on 9 March. The challenge provides young people with guidance on information security and teaches them ethical hacking through different penetration testing exercises. The Digital and Population Data Services Agency and information security companies are also involved in the campaign. For more information about the challenge, go to: https://www.challenge.fi/.

– A hacking challenge is an excellent way of testing one's IT skills in a safe and legal environment. By taking part in the challenge, young people can show off their skills to professionals, which can help them to get a job or traineeship later, Viivi Lehtinen says.

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