Children can become addicted to hacking - report

Published 26/10/2016 | 02:30

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Kids may become "addicted" to hacking, according to a new international study led by UCD professor and cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken.

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The report, entitled 'Youth Pathways Into Cybercrime', found that hacking can stimulate similar brain activity as drugs.

"Dopamine can be released quickly as vulnerable youth achieve frequent and rapid successes online," the report said.

"If these successes are linked to anti-social acts, such as hacking, they will be reinforced to pursue further ends to obtain their gains."

The report's research stakeholders included Interpol, Europol, the British National Crime Agency, the British Home Office and UCD.

It includes recommendations for policing, policy and the legal system.

Cues on how to tackle the problem can be taken from anti-drug campaigns, the report said.

"Frameworks of addiction assist with explaining the difficulties in cessation as well as an escalation in deviancy and targeted victimisation," it stated.

The study also said that money is not the primary motivation for kids involved in hacking.

"Goals could include social affiliation, increased online reputation," it said.

"Building reputation scores online becomes so important that young hackers can invest copious amounts of cognitive and emotive resources.

"Hierarchies are formed within networks and moving up the hierarchy is seen as a form of game playing and test of skill."

Meanwhile, youth hackers are characterised as "male, socially isolated but commonly networked with groups of similar adolescents".

The report comes weeks after the world's biggest data breach at Yahoo, where at least 500 million accounts had personal data accessed.

"Cyber-misconducts such as digital piracy or copyright violation are often minimised, since the Internet is perceived as a place with no guardians, where law can be easily bypassed with the right skills," said the report.

"Online peer network normalises and encourages illegal behaviour."