The SIC's focus on hacking goes back to Safer Internet Day (SID) 2018, when they conducted research on the topic of young people and cybercrime. The results showed that 3 per cent of children aged 12-18 said they had already hacked, and 7 per cent would consider doing it. Among young people aged 16-17, almost 14 per cent indicated that they had already hacked or would consider it if the situation arose.
Young people usually start hacking through experimentation, often purely for fun. This research also showed that most teenagers know hacking is a criminal offense, but the urge to see if something succeeds takes over. Moreover, the likelihood of getting caught is very low – in these situations, young people often remain unseen until things go wrong.
For the Dutch SIC, the main purpose of this research was to use the figures to show these young hackers and their parents, carers or teachers that they have a unique talent they can use to contribute to society – for example, in the field of cybercrime prevention. To do so, the SIC launched a campaign "Hacktalent, doe er iets goeds mee" (in Dutch, "Talent for hacking, use it in a good way") with the support of ethical hackers, the police and the public prosecution service. The campaign consisted, among other things, of two movies that received a lot of attention, and that can be watched at veiliginternetten.nl/hacktalent.
The Dutch SIC supported this campaign on:
- veiliginternetten.nl – The SIC set up a webpage where they advise parents on what to do if they find out their child practices hacking, or when they have committed a crime, or how they can contribute in a positive way when they find a security problem on a website. The main message for parents is: if your child turns out to have a talent for hacking, don't panic, be proud instead! Many companies nowadays are desperately looking for young people with this skillset.
- meldknop.nl – When severe things happen online, young people try to find information online before talking about it with their parents – therefore, this website is meant for young people to find assistance with problems they encounter online, including young hackers needing help. The website refers them to organisations that can offer advice or assist in certain situations.
The Dutch SIC's research and campaigns also supported the programme of Team High Tech Crime of the national police, called Hack_Right. This programme is an alternative criminal procedure for young people who have been arrested and brought to justice for a first cyber offense. The goal of Hack_Right is to prevent recidivism and to further develop the talents of these young people (aged 12-23) within the framework of the law.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the Dutch SIC assisted the Dutch police in launching a website called Gamechangers with challenges for young people to engage in, which clearly focus on white hacking – young people are challenged to find a security leak within a system. This way, they are encouraged to use their skills for something positive, especially in these times when the number of cases of cybercrime cases has increased. In the future, the Dutch SIC aspires to keep inspiring organisations to raise awareness on hacking.
Find out more information about the work of the Dutch Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.