TalkTalk was subject to cyber attacks from teenagers earlier this year

Average age of cyber-criminals drops to 17

The average age of suspected cyber attackers is now just 17 according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Experts believe that the prestige endowed upon successful hackers in hacking communities proves attractive to teenagers.

The NCA’s comments follow after the serious data breaches at the internet service provider TalkTalk which were later found to be perpetrated by a group of teenagers, one as young as 15.The body said that the average age of cyber criminals has dropped to 17 from 24 in the last 12 months alone.

Dr Robert Nowill, who works for the Cyber Security Challenge which recruits security experts, said: "Young people are becoming increasingly savvy and switched on to the world of cyber, something that is critical to the future defence of our country.

"The issue is keeping them on the right side of the law; many become attracted to the environment and the kudos they earn from getting involved in criminal activities."

Organised criminal gangs are known to scour forums to find talented young hackers that can exploit security flaws in company systems.

To combat the rise of young hackers, the NCA is launching the #CyberChoices campaign, aimed at the parents of boys aged 12 to 15, to steer them away from crime.

Richard Jones from the NCA's Cyber Crime Unit said: "Over the past few years the NCA has seen the people engaging in cyber-crime becoming younger and younger.

“We know that simply criminalising young people cannot be the solution to this and so the campaign seeks to help motivate children to use their skills more positively.

"We have aimed the campaign initially at parents, because we know from research that they often are unaware of what their children are doing online.”

Meanwhile, Lord Alan Sugar has asked the government for an update on how vulnerable Britain is to cyber-attacks from China.

The peer asked Cabinet Office minister Lord Bridges of Headley for an update on an investigation launched by the last coalition government into Chinese technology company Huawei.

"The infrastructure in most of the exchanges of the internet service providers in this country is supplied by a Chinese company, Huawei. In the previous coalition government, I believe Sir Malcolm Rifkind was commissioned to go and enquire as to the vulnerability the country has with possible instruction of the Chinese government to shut our systems down. I wonder whether the noble Lord has any results of this investigation?" Sugar asked.

The minister responded by saying that the Government was not complacent on the issue and would divulge more information about the specifics of the investigation in a letter to Sugar.

"Clearly we are not complacent on this issue. Virtually every telecommunications network worldwide incorporates foreign technology, and most manufacturers have some of their equipment built in China, and use technical components from a global supply chain, regardless of the location of their headquarters," Lord Bridges said.

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