Technology

Police force denies creating 'child hacker' poster

A child looks at a screen on to which has the Discord logo composited on to it Image copyright Getty Images

Two law-enforcement agencies have distanced themselves from a poster about children and cyber-crime widely mocked online.

It suggested the police should be alerted if a child was found using programs popular with cyber-security experts - as well as a gaming chat app.

The poster bore the logos of both the National Crime Agency and West Midlands Police.

But both have now tweeted they were not involved in its production.

The West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit said the poster was supposed to be "a quick reference guide".

"The software mentioned is legal and in the vast majority of cases is used legitimately, giving great benefit to those interested in developing their digital skills," it told ZDNet.

"However, as with any software, it can also be misused by those with less legitimate intentions."

A picture of the poster, shared on social media by Gareth Illmann-Walker, UK, went viral.

Addressing his local council, Mr Illmann-Walker said he would be "proud" to find his own children learning to use most of the tools on the list.

They were:

  • Tor - an anonymous web browser that protects privacy and can be used to access the dark web
  • Virtual Machines - a program that creates a "sand-box" environment so users can experiment with other operating systems without damaging their entire PC
  • Kali Linux - an independent operating system created by a cyber-security company
  • Wi-fi Pineapple - a device used to test wi-fi security, which can also be used to spoof networks
  • Discord - a free messaging platform popular with gamers
  • Metasploit - software used for testing security vulnerabilities
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Media captionWATCH: The teenage millionaire hacker

Prof Alan Woodward, from Surrey University, said some of the software could be used for hacking as well as for genuine security research.

But he added: "If I found a 15-year-old with all that on their machine, I would invite them to come and study with us.

"It's not what you have it's how you're using it - and it's wrong to assume all these tools are bad.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions and while I can understand they wanted to alert teachers and parents... if a kid knows enough to have all that stuff, you are never going to find it anyway."

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