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Irish cyberpsychologist inspiring CSI show tells Web Summit: We should learn from kids in cybercrime


SPIN-OFF: Patricia Arquette plays Avery Ryan, based on Mary Aiken, in CSI:Cyber. Photo: CBS

SPIN-OFF: Patricia Arquette plays Avery Ryan, based on Mary Aiken, in CSI:Cyber. Photo: CBS

SPIN-OFF: Patricia Arquette plays Avery Ryan, based on Mary Aiken, in CSI:Cyber. Photo: CBS

THE world is “sleepwalking its way into a new and evolving world” without understanding why people commit cybercrime, according to leading cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken.

Aiken, whose work in cyber psychology has actually inspired the latest series in the hit TV show CSI, said rather than looking to criminalise hackers we should "learn from their incredible skill set and point them in the right direction".

Ms Aiken, who is based in Dublin, was speaking on the main stage at the Web Summit on the topic ‘The CyberPyschology of CyberCrime’.

Ms Aiken said hacking is a very complex practice and that it has become a “pejorative and negative term” but that when it was first used in the 1950s through to the 1970s it was considered “a spectacular skill set”.

“From a behavioural science point of view, we need to work harder to understand the motivations behind these behaviours. From a theoretical empirical scientific perspective we have to question everything,” the director of the RCSI cyberpyschology research centre said.

“We need to develop new theories to deal with this emerging space. I am absolutely pro technology but I cannot help from a behavioural science perspective feel we are sort of sleepwalking are way into this new and exciting and evolving world.”

She said she is currently working on one project with Europol which involves using geographic profiling, normally used to track offenders of serious crimes, and apply it to a cyber context to see how people, particularly teenagers, become involved in hacking or other cyber crime.

“We know a lot about criminology. We know a kid in a particular neighborhood with a particular group of friends might get sucked into juvenile delinquency. We don't know anything about cyber juvenile delinquency,” she said.

Referencing the recent Talk Talk hacking scandal, she asked if “we should be criminalising 13, 14 and 15 year olds or do we want to understand their behaviour, engage with their incredible skillset, understand them, mentor them and try and point them in the right direction?”

Ms Aiken, who is also a producer and writer on the new show CSI: Cyber, said she was stunned when CBS contacted her about the show.

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“We air in 170 countries. That is an incredible platform to educate, to entertain and to reach out in terms of cyber security and safety messaging.”

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