Illegal downloading of music and film could lead to cyber-crime, a senior police officer has warned on Wednesday.
Andy Archibald, deputy director of the National Cyber Crime Unit at the National Crime Agency, said taking part in internet piracy was a possible first step towards more serious online activities.
He said: “If you think about the illegal downloading of music, of videos and DVDs, I think that practice is more common than we might imagine within the youth of today.
“That's criminality. It's almost become acceptable. That's the first stages, I believe, of a gateway in to the dark side.”
He warned that young people with strong technical abilities could be targeted by cyber criminals wanting to recruit new members.
“There are many of our young people - and not only young people - who are becoming highly skilled and capable in a digital environment,” he said.
“It's important that they put those skills to good use and are not tempted to become involved, unwittingly, in cyber criminality. They are members of forums and are exchanging ideas in a marketplace that criminals are looking (at). They are looking for people with technical skills who can complement their criminal business.”
Speaking at a conference in London, Archibald said the threat from cyber-crime is the biggest challenge facing law enforcement agencies.
The coalition Government launched several initiatives designed to attract and retain young talent focused on detecting and preventing cyber-attacks like the annual cyber security challenge and the Cyber First recruitment drive.
Cyber First was a pilot sponsorship scheme designed to identify, recruit and train people with the necessary skills for cyber security roles, using initiatives such as the Cyber Security Challenge Schools Programme and national maths competitions.
The Government is expected to publish the details of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which will transfer more powers to police and spy agencies to access communications data.