What is the one phrase that school children around the world will have issued at some point in their education and more than once? Yes, you’ve got it. “I hate school.” But rather than stamp their feet or cry in frustration some of the little imps have turned to taking down school and other websites.

As a result Britain's computer crime cops are targeting youngsters as young as nine years old in an attempt to dissuade them from embarking on a life of cybercrime.

The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) has launched an initiative with the aim of educating youngsters about the consequences of launching distributed denial of services (DDoS) attacks that take down websites.

The National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU), an arm of the NCA, said it had received many referrals who were secondary school children, with an average age of 15 years, and the youngest just nine.
  • Kids are generally launching DDoS attacks by firstly playing online games, and then getting into installing mods, hacks, and even remote access trojans to get the upper hand on their gaming rivals.
  • Many don’t consider it wrong to disrupt other players' gaming experience because it it’s just another way of winning. Their peers are doing it too, and they certainly don’t believe that the long arm of the cyber law will nab them.
  • The initiative is being rolled out to over 2,000 primary and secondary schools in the UK, ahead of going live at further schools and colleges across the country. It will see students who search for terms associated with cybercrime greeted with a message stating that access has been denied.
  • The campaign also aims to influence young people to exploit their technical prowess in an above board career in the technology, gaming, or cybersecurity industries.
Precocious hackers

Frustrated gamer - Kristoffer Von Hassel, frustrated by the parental controls that came with his family’s Xbox gaming console, managed to bypass the security settings and gain complete access. He also managed to log into his parents’ restricted YouTube account. He was only 5 years old

Too smart for school? Betsy Davies was only 7 years old when she made waves by exposing a vulnerability in public Wi-Fi networks. After reviewing a brief tutorial on Internet connectivity, she was able to bypass one of the world’s most famous VPNs. However, it was an experiment carried out in a controlled setting.

FarmVille is just too slow - Smartphone technology wasn’t very old when, in 2011, developers learned of a major vulnerability in Android and iOS operating systems. The security expert who brought this flaw to their attention wasn’t very old either. Known only by her hacker pseudonym, CyFi she was just 10 when she discovered a zero-day exploit. She was frustrated because she couldn’t quickly grow fruits and vegetables in the FarmVille app game. Rather than wait the mandatory 10 hours per crop cycle (like everyone else), CyFi figured out how to harvest produce much faster by resetting her phone’s internal clock.

Protest - In 2012, an 11-year-old boy from Canada initiated a series of DDoS attacks against several high-profile governmental sites, including the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec and the Montreal police. The young “hacktivist” arguably had his heart in the right place. He was protesting some of the tuition hikes that ultimately led to Quebec student protests that year.

A pre-teen entrepreneur - At age 10, Reuben Paul launched a career as an ethical hacker, dedicated to making the world a safer place for everyone. Paul even has his own firm, which focuses primarily on the growing threat of today’s increasingly connected smart devices from phones to refrigerators to children’s toys.