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I accompanied FaceTime Director of Malware Research Chris Boyd on a trip to BBC Television Centre in London earlier this month for an interview segment. We’d worked with the BBC Technology group on some footage during the summer and it aired earlier this week on the BBC website. This led to a rollercoaster week for us with the media here in the UK starting with a front page news story, in the UK’s fourth largest daily newspaper, the Metro. Not long afterwards, we were asked if we’d like to take part in Friday’s edition of BBC Newsround.
What sparked this media frenzy was the release of footage of Boyd, the leading man in FaceTime Security Labs research team, talking about the phenomenon of kids using the Net, using forums and other social networking sites to share, sell and trade stolen identities, credit cards, game cracks and expensive software license keys.
If you grew up in the UK in the 70′s or 80′s you’ll remember John Craven’s Newsround. At 5pm every day John Craven – and the latter teams, once he retired from his 27 year stint on the program, presented a 15 minute new programme, specifically targeted to young people. I grew up with it, as did many of my peers. Their kids are now watching the noughties version of this real world, real time show. So, you can imagine the excitement in the FaceTime camp when we arrived at Wood Lane tube station and walked up to the front gates of the BBC.
After we’d got through the public facing area – yes there are Daleks (they’re much smaller than I imagined.) and the Tardis (just exactly as I imagined) – we noticed that the Newsround offices are very much like any other office, albeit a primary colour oriented office. The team is young, bouncy (is that a real word to describe people?) and you can visibly see them translating your words into “young person speak,” as the target audience for Newsround is the 6-12 year olds. You can see coverage of this on the BBC website
Chris talked in his video article about how kids of twelve start on the hacker track by finding cracks for games and then, high on the resulting ego trip, show off their prowess to mates. While it might be fun and may make them the centre of their peer group, it’s still illegal, it’s still cybercrime, and it’s usually the beginnings of lifestyle that may stop them from having a career they would actually want to put on their CV.
Whilst Chris was explaining this, Ricky Boleta, our given Newsround presenter, was translating it into pre-teen speak. He was stunned that these young children were actually involved in this kind of criminal activity. Chris detailed some of the techniques these kids used to share, steal and pass on this information.
I’m pretty sure that unless you’re in our IT Security Industry, it’s nigh on impossible as a parent to understand what kids are up to these days whilst surfing – and I certainly know that most kids these days are more savvy at all the hacks they use to move up to the next level in World of Warcraft. Taking the next step to criminality isn’t hard. Perhaps this is the “noughties” version of stealing a penny sweet from the store. Except the life lesson that they’re going to learn is a darn sight harsher than a cane across the knuckles. (oo I’m showing my age and education there….)
I invite you to watch the BBC video and see what all the fuss is about.