A U.S. government advisory board is urging action to address the concerning rise of teenagers engaging in underground cybercrime activities. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Safety Review Board has recommended that Congress consider funding prevention programs aimed at steering young individuals away from illegal hacking and online crimes. The focus comes in the wake of an investigation into Lapsus$, a teenage hacking group known for its attacks on major companies like Microsoft and Nvidia.
Experts point out that many parents might not suspect their children’s involvement in cybercrime due to the normalcy of computer and smartphone use, while a lack of education about online legality makes young people vulnerable to the allure of criminal hacking.
Statistics show that a significant portion of European youths aged 16 to 19 have reported engaging in criminal behavior online, according to a survey funded by the European Union. The survey, conducted among 8,000 young people across nine European countries, indicates that about 48% of respondents participated in online criminal activities between the summers of 2020 and 2021.
While programs aimed at juvenile cybercrime prevention have emerged in Europe, the U.S. is being urged to follow suit. These initiatives focus on educating young people about cybercrime and rehabilitating youth cybercriminals to reduce recidivism. Dr. Mary Aiken, co-author of an EU-funded study, emphasizes the need for multi-pronged efforts to address this concerning issue.
Despite these recommendations, it remains uncertain whether U.S. lawmakers will take up the board’s proposals and which federal agency might champion the cause. Dr. Aiken has been advocating for action in this area, having engaged with officials at the White House, the Department of Justice, and DHS to discuss her research findings.
She emphasizes the necessity of a coordinated approach to lead such initiatives and expand programs to include addressing “gateway” online behaviors that could lead to more serious criminal activities. The rise of teen involvement in cybercrime highlights the importance of comprehensive prevention measures and education to safeguard against this growing trend.