In the latest stunning example of a UK government agency not having any idea what it's talking about, the UK's National Crime Agency, a nationally funded body designed to deal with serious and organised crime, suggested modding games turns kids into cyber-criminals.
Game modding is, as we all know, not a new thing, so for the NCA to come out with this statement now is somewhat inexplicable: the NCA is not exactly unfamiliar with cyber crime, and this is the first time in my 12+ years on the modding scene that I have ever heard anyone make this connection before.
The reason the NCA is coming to this conclusion stems back to a 2015 incident, when six teenagers affiliated to the hacking group "Lizard Squad" where arrested. This was the group that was responsible for the infamous, yet not technically difficult to achieve, take-down of Xbox Live and PSN during the 2014 and 2015 holiday season.
Seemingly, due the interest that these teenagers had in both video games, and modding both games and gaming hardware, the NCA concluded that this was the catalyst for their nefarious behaviour. They're taking this stance quite seriously, too - they're going to be setting up booths at gaming conventions (such as the upcoming Play Expo in Manchester) - with a concerted campaign to teach kids that sitting around modding games and drinking iron brew is wrong.
Richard Jones, head of the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit’s 'Prevent' teamWe have undertaken analysis on pathways into cyber crime offending and can conclude that some young people who have an interest in online games may begin to participate in gaming cheat websites and ‘modding'.
This has the potential to progress to criminal hacking forums and use of low level cybercrime services like DDOS for hire. We are therefore at the event to speak to young people who may be vulnerable to becoming involved in cybercrime and promote lawful career pathways.
To be fair to the NCA - they're not trying to ban modding or anything like that - but they're trying to teach young people that they should channel the skills learned from the practice into good, not evil.
I don't personally believe that there's any real need to target these specific individuals - I don't believe they're more or less likely to become a cyber-criminal based on the fact they learned to mod games - in so much as one goes hand-in-hand with the other - if you're the type of person who likes to tinker around with things and see how they work, this is what you're going to do regardless - and some people will always do this for good, others for evil.
What do you think of the NCA's stance on this? Let us know in the comments below!