Authorities deter cybercrime by targeting young men with online warnings
The UK's National Crime Agency is running campaigns targeted at young men in the UK, warning them against engaging in cyber attacks
Targeted messaging could help to deter wavering cyber criminals (Photo: Pexels)
Highly-targeted online messages warning web users not to get involved in cybercrime appears to have led to a "dramatic decrease" in the number of would-be cybercriminals, a new study has suggested.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and University of Strathclyde compared the number of cyber attacks purchased by web users through 'booter' service sites to intervention tactics from the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA), the FBI in the US and other global law enforcement agencies.
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While high-profile arrests and prison sentences for cybercriminals caused a brief drop in the number of ordered attacks, targeted messaging campaigns and the removal of booter service providers had a sharper, longer-term effect, their research found.
Web users can purchase denial of service (DoS) attacks on booter sites from just a few pounds, causing websites to buckle under large amounts of traffic.
DoS attacks have become a popular method of seeking revenge on other web users, particularly among gaming sites.
The largest booster site carries out between 30,000 and 50,000 DoS attacks every day (Photo: ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Targeting young men in the UK with adverts reminding them that DoS attacks are illegal proved extremely effective for the NCA.
Users searching for booster services between late December 2017 and June 2018 were presented with an advert explaining that such attacks are against the law under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
"It's surprising, but it seems to work, like a type of digital guardianship," said Ben Collier, from Cambridge's Department of Computer Science & Technology. "At the exact moment you get curious about getting involved in cybercrime, you get a little tap on the shoulder.
"It might not work for people who are already involved in this type of cybercrime, but it appeared to dramatically decrease the numbers of new people getting involved."
The NCA and FBI have already used the research to inform their dealings with booster services, with the authors suggesting targeted online messaging has the potential to be a "potent tool" in preventing internet crime.
The arrests of high-profile cybercriminals had only a short-term effect on the volume of DoS attacks before returning to normal, according to the report, presented at the ACM Internet Measurement Conference in Amsterdam.
Sentencing had no widespread effect, as attackers in one country weren't affected by sentences in another country, and previous research found booster operators were unconcerned at the threat of police action against them.
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