Chances are that when you think of cyber crime it’s all about the big things: mass financial data leaks, interfering with government security, identity fraud and other actions that have huge consequences. But in reality, UK law enforcement teams are interested in the ‘smaller’ things too, like account cracking and takeover, DDoS attacks or even just messing around with hacking tools in a low security environment.
Despite being on the lower end of the scale in terms of seriousness, offences like this can result in a criminal record or worse if you are convicted. And although they can be dealt with by your local bobbies, they’ll be coordinated by the National Cyber Crime Unit (the NCCU). Together with regional cyber crime units and local forces, the NCCU have specialist units that investigate all levels of cyber offence, as outlined by the Computer Misuse Act.
How does gaming come into play here?
Being online can expose people to cyber criminality (it’s in the name!), whether as a victim of crime or in some cases as a route to becoming a perpetrator. With gaming increasingly moving into always-online spaces, this has the potential to increase the risk to individuals. And unfortunately, a recent study by the National Crime Agency (NCA) identified that a possible pathway into cyber crime for younger people was through gaming.
It’s a disturbingly easy-to-picture scenario. Often, the stats showed that offenders started out by participating in cheat websites and modding forums and then progressed to more criminally-focused hacking sites without understanding the consequences. Curiosity, wanting to test their limits and also pure unawareness that what they were doing was a crime: all of these were listed as reasons and it’s easy to see where people could get caught out. Most commonly, the crimes committed are DDoS attacks and cracking into people’s online gaming accounts, both of which are serious enough to get the NCCU or police involved.
Curiosity doesn’t have to be criminal. There are ways to explore hacking ethically and without falling foul of the law: the Cyber Security Challenge runs regular competitions and there’s even a chance at a career if you’re good enough. It’s a bit like Bletchley Park recruiting people through crosswords, except you could probably tell your mum about it afterwards.
So you’ve been hacked: what do you do?
If you’re unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of an account takeover or the victim of booting, the easiest thing to do is report it via the Action Fraud portal. They don’t actually investigate your crime, but they do pass your report to the most appropriate law enforcement agency or police force who’ll get in touch with you directly. While you wait, you should cancel any payment cards associated to your gaming accounts and keep an eye on your statements for suspicious transactions.
As an aside: If you’re a business, charity or other organisation currently suffering a live cyber attack (in progress), please call 0300 123 2040 immediately.
Want to know more about what the NCCU can do to help with cyber crime? You can check out our work in the field here, find contact details for the team here, and get involved with ethical hacking initiatives here.