34 teenagers, mainly under the age of 20, were arrested by the European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol on December 12 for deploying DDoS-for-hire attacks on various websites. Europol Head of European Cybercrime Center (EC3) Steve Wilson stated a strong case will be made against young adults attempting to pursue a criminal path with technologies.
Wilson, who led the successful Europol investigation and crackdown on the large-scale DDoS-for-hire network established by teenagers, said in a press release that most young adults in this generation of technological innovation fails to recognize the consequences of criminal activities involving technologies.
Particularly, Wilson noted that law enforcement agencies across the globe must help young adults understand the losses and discomfort businesses and organizations are forced to deal with when they are targeted by large scale DDoS-for-hire attacks. While some medium-sized websites could easily pass through minutes or hours of downtime, attacks on enterprise-level platforms like bank applications or financial websites could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in server and maintenance fees.
“Today’s generation is closer to technology than ever before, with the potential of exacerbating the threat of cybercrime. Many IT enthusiasts get involved in seemingly low-level fringe cybercrime activities from a young age, unaware of the consequences that such crimes carry. One of the key priorities of law enforcement should be to engage with these young people to prevent them from pursuing a criminal path, helping them understand how they can use their skills for a more constructive purpose.,” said Wilson.
During the investigation, 101 suspects were named and 34 of the suspects were arrested and charged. Europol’s EC3 announced that some suspects are already fined and detained by the local authorities in Australia, Belgium, France, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom.
All of the abovementioned countries contributed to the investigation of Interpol, searching for potential suspects and identifying aliases to interview members of the hacking group established by teenagers.
However, neither Interpol or any of the countries that participated in the investigation revealed further details in the DDoS attacks and how the attacks affected the websites and platforms targeted by the hacking group.
Cybergroup, a top cybersecurity media company based in Washington, hinted that Europe’s law enforcement agencies could look into forums like HackForums.net in the near future, where teenagers or young adults are most likely to engage in their first attempt to hack or launch cyberattacks for compensation.
Although it is difficult to target these open online forums as most of them help young individuals pave successful career paths within the computer and internet industries, an important follow up action the Europol could take to educate teenagers is to take initiative in helping young adults with resources instead of delivering a message to “wannabe hackers” through fear of arrest.