Thursday, July 17, 2008

Teens recruited by cops to fight cybervillains

YOUTHS as young as 14 have been recruited by the Australian Federal Police to help fight online crime, with recognition they are better skilled at surfing the net than veteran agents.

In an Australian first, 20 teen recruits today will begin working with the AFP to develop strategies to catch cyber fraudsters, predators and even those grooming other youths for terrorism. The move is part of a worldwide program that has deputised children in the US, Canada, Britain and 23 other countries to help fight e-crime.

AFP Hi-Tech Crime Centre chief Kevin Zuccato said the move was not a gimmick or an experiment but recognition that evolving technology was truly only understood by those who used it as part of their everyday lives.

The young also were best placed to identify evolving crime including cyber bullying and ID theft and help police develop strategies to warn parents, Mr Zuccato said.

"We realised the only way to do that effectively is to listen to digital natives, the young people of today, and those born into the internet," he said.

"It's almost programmed into their DNA how to use technology and how to navigate around the ocean that is the internet. For us 30, 40, 50-year-old police officers and policy makers and government officials, it's impossible in my view to develop appropriate effective strategies unless we listen to the people we're trying to protect."

Mr Zuccato said the youths were advising on which chatroom sites they "live in", youth jargon, what they look out for and even codes used by teens online and on mobile phone SMS.

"They can help us dissuade criminals, educate children to stay safe online, empower themselves to make the right decisions online and if we can provide policies with their information, that means we minimise the number of victims."

The 20 youths, aged 14 to 16 from Canberra, were hand-selected and taken to Britain as part of a global police force strategy to use their knowledge and skill to develop a charter for the United Nations.

One recruit, 15-year-old Ella, said yesterday she hoped what she knew and could pass on to police would help others. The program is to be formally announced in Britain today.


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