Dutch police send young hackers to intern at IT companies

This year 11 young hackers between the ages of 12 and 23 were sent to intern at an IT company as part of their punishment. This forms part of the police and Public Prosecutor's experimental program Hack_Right, which aims to get these first offenders back on the right path.

Every year around 70 teenagers and young people are arrested for a cybercrime. "Often they do not see the consequences of their actions; sometimes they do not even realize that they have committed an offense", the police said in a statement. For example, this involves teenagers who hack into a system just to see if they can. "That a company then has to spend a lot of money, for example to inform all customers that there has been a hack, they do not realize."

The Dutch authorities experimented with Hack_Right this year, to see if they can help these young people stay out of the criminal world by showing them other, legal ways to use their skills. The experiment was successful enough that it has been extended for another year.

Hack_Right can be imposed as an alternative to a punishment, but also as part of a punishment. Only young people who confess, did not commit a very serious form of hacking, and are prepared to develop in a positive way, are eligible for the program. This must also be the first crime they are convicted of. "Because then the chances of changing their behavior are greatest", prosecutor Martijn Egberts explained.

"Hack_Right consists of four modules, which you can see as four puzzle pieces: recovery, training, alternative and coaching. Each module adds something to the behavioral change of the young people", Egberts said. In the first module, the perpetrator is confronted with the victim so that they can see what damage they did. The second module consists of training the young perpetrators on the legal boundaries of the internet. "Everyone knows that throwing a brick through a window is not allowed, but online these boundaries are sometimes a lot less clear", the prosecutor said.

The third module offers young people alternatives. "We offer the perpetrators alternatives to use for good, or ethical hacking", police officer Floor Jansen said. "For example, at a cyber workshop or hackerspace. Often these possibilities are unknown to them." And in the fourth and final model, the young people are coached in the alternatives. 

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