It’s not just a game: Educating young people on the dangers of cyber crime

A recently created partnership between Schools Broadband and the National Crime Agency has seen the innovative development of a new solution in safeguarding school children and young people against cyber crime: search-specific educational block pages

National Crime Agency data shows cyber attacks on schools have more than doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic, often with attacks coming directly from school students. Currently, there’s an insatiable appetite among young people for watching films and playing online games about network attacks; consequently, there’s a huge increase in awareness of the large-scale damage that can be inflicted on an organisation’s network. A successful Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack can paralyse a school’s network, potentially causing complete loss of control and in worst-case scenarios, even school closures.

Children are often introduced to cyber crime through gaming at an early age. There were 259 referrals between 2019 and 2020 from police into the National Cyber Crime Unit Cyber Choices Programme, with the average age being 15, and the youngest being 9.

There’s a huge growth in children and young people witnessing friends and teammates gaining gaming advantages online using DDoS attacks; targeted networks are flooded with traffic, causing speeds to slow to a halt and temporarily knocking competing gamers offline. Usually, the objective is to help the attacker win, however it can also be used as a tactic for monetary gain. Recently, a major online e-sports tournament hosted by game developer Jagex for the online game Runescape in which tens of thousands of pounds in prize money was at stake, was taken down by DDoS attacks while thousands watched over the streaming service Twitch. The likelihood is that children made up a large part of that audience.

It is now all too easy for young people to access attack tools online. They will likely be aware that this is cheating, and against the rules of the game, but probably unaware that they are committing a crime. Many will have likely dipped their toe in the water to gain an advantage in online gaming, but what starts with DDoS attacks, hacking accounts, phishing etc. is just the thin-end of the wedge and can evolve into serious cyber crime such as ransomware.

David Tindall, CEO at Schools Broadband, said: “If, as part of our standard filtering service we can educate young people and inform them that these activities are dangerous and can result in criminal prosecution, we can potentially prevent a future cyber criminal who could go on to do much more harm than interrupting an online game.”

Intervention at an early age, when exposure and exploration is in its infancy, can prevent a ripple effect of online criminality that has the potential to be felt beyond the individual and go nationally, even globally.

The Schools Broadband NCA block page is a specially designed page that informs on the dangers of cyber crime. Information on the block page encourages children to make more positive choices online and is a further enhancement to the filtering service provided to schools and Multi Academy Trusts by Schools Broadband.

Specific block pages are displayed when search terms related to cyber crime are used. The block pages include links to the NCA’s Cyber Choices website that advises children on how to put their cyber skills to better use. Information is also gathered to allow teachers to intervene where appropriate, for example with vulnerable children or those who repeatedly attempt to access restricted content. It also allows the NCA to target their educational activities in areas that need it most.

Technology and cyber crime is ever evolving, which is why Schools Broadband ensures its developments in safeguarding technology are always a step ahead. With the success of the innovative cyber crime education programme, we hope to introduce the same block page education principles into other areas where search terms may put a young person or child at risk of self-harm or drug related terms.

Specialist internet services for education

Schools Broadband is a specialist internet service provider to the education sector, currently providing filtering to over 700,000 school pupils and staff. Specialists in education specific web filtering and online safeguarding, network security, VoIP phone services and secure private wide area networks for multi academy trusts. Schools Broadband also provides secure leased lines up to 10Gbps, FTTC, EoFTTC and FTTP.

Schools Broadband provides an added layer of Anti DDOS protection as part of its Unified Threat Management Service which includes several mechanisms to fully contain the largest of DDoS attacks.

You can get in contact with Schools Broadband via their website, or find out more about them here.

You might also like: UK government unveils new strategy for cybersecurity

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