When most parents say that the sounds of approaching sirens are coming for their children, it’s meant in jest. But for some moms and dads in the U.K., the joke isn’t funny anymore. In what may be the exact opposite of “swatting,” British police are now trying to scare teenage hackers straight by paying them a home visit. Because sometimes, your parents’ threats just don’t really have as much clout. Or in some cases, your parents have no idea what you’re doing on your computer.
The new initiative is a proactive attempt at stopping cyberattacks before they ever happen. Noting that many young hackers often feel a sense of invincibility and supreme over-confidence, the British police are hoping to give these teens a reality check for everyone’s sake. The whole point behind catching these kids early, officials say, is to point them in the right direction, using their (considerable) powers for good rather than evil.
“There are a lot of hugely knowledgeable, obsessive, skilled, curious young people out there who want to find out just how far they can push technology,” Robert Schifreen, one of the first Brits ever prosecuted for a cybercrime told Bloomberg. “Spelling out to these kids just how far they can go, while remaining on the right side of the law, makes a lot of sense.”
This year, police have made about 50 house calls to teens across the country, all of whom are considered to be on the “periphery of cybercrime.” And to pull them back from the proverbial edge, members of the Prevent team within the U.K.’s National Crime Agency are looking to scare some sense into them, sometimes just by having a much needed conversation.
While it has yet to be determined whether these scare tactics and (not so gentle) reminders have had an effect on the rates of teenage hacking, it sounds like a good idea in theory. So tread carefully, teens. You never know who that house call is for.