The National Crime Agency (NCA) is the UK’s leading law enforcement agency and is tasked to protect the UK from serious, high risk, and organized crime. In addition to traditional crime the NCA leads the UK response to cybercrime.
Part of the NCA’s Prevent response to cybercrime is the Cyber Choices campaign. This is a national initiative to help young people make more informed decisions and to use and develop their technical skills in an ethical manner, without inadvertently crossing the line into illegal activity.
The NCA reported in 2017 that around 61% of hackers are already developing their skills by the age of 16. In 2015, the average age of suspects and arrests in cybercrime investigations was just 17, compared to the average age of 37 in traditional crime investigations. The skill barrier for cybercrime is lower than ever, with off-the-shelf hacking tools and guides readily available online and requiring little technical expertise to utilise.
With a national lockdown taking place due to the coronavirus pandemic and the summer holidays fast approaching, the NCA wanted to provide a safe space for cyber savvy 13–18 year olds to develop their technical abilities, while promoting legal and ethical opportunities in the field to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Immersive Labs provided more than 100 labs for the Cyber4Summer program with a bespoke curriculum that supported the NCA’s coronavirus response efforts. Launched in July, the initiative was made nationwide over the three months of the summer holidays and covered a broad range of cybersecurity themes, skill sets, and hands-on, practical cyber elements rather than simply awareness tips.
Topics included staying safe online, encoding, and encryption, as well as the ins and outs of red (attack) and blue (defense) team groups. Three capture-the-flag (CTF) challenges were also included for students to tackle, aligning with the role of a cybercrime investigator to give some industry context to their practice.