Yoda: Pilot intervention for young cybercriminals

The Northern Netherlands Public Prosecution Service (Openbaar Ministerie, OM) has launched an initiative for an alternative intervention aimed at the prevention of recidivism in young cybercriminals. This initiative is named Yoda. This had already been the subject of a nationwide debate for a while. Initial concrete experiences have been gained in the Northern Netherlands.

Yoda is a character of the Star Wars saga. He is a green Jedi Master and a member of the Jedi Order and the Jedi Council. Yoda is the most powerful Jedi ever as far as wisdom is concerned. He very much deserves his reputation of most powerful Jedi Master because of the large number of Jedi Knights he has trained.

Pilot Halt-settlement

The Public Prosecutions Department, Halt Foundation (Stichting Halt), and Child Care and Protection have asked theFactor.e, Malengo, and Insite Security to propose ideas and actively contribute to the Halt settlement of two cybercriminals, in the form of a pilot. The pilot’s objective is to enforce the Halt punishment in a suitable manner not just so that young cybercriminals are being confronted with their behaviour and its consequences, but also so that the risk of recidivism is reduced and the young people are offered a better outlook for the future.

A Halt settlement is a punishment for young people between the ages of 12 to 18 who have committed a minor offence. In a Halt settlement, the young person can rectify what he or she did wrong, without coming into contact with the Public Prosecution Service. The Public Prosecutor of the Public Prosecution Service will refrain from prosecuting the young person and the latter will not get a criminal record.

Halt intervention method

In this Halt intervention, Halt confronts the young people with their behaviour and its consequences. Halt attempts to make young people aware that they can influence their own behaviour. And this is not the only element of the Halt intervention, because young people must also offer their excuses to their victims, potentially compensate damage, and in some cases perform community service.

During the pilot, two young cybercriminals are offered an alternative Halt settlement. The first one had executed a so-called ‘brute force’ attack on a popular e-shop. In simple terms, he had gained access to the e-shop’s accounts via a list of e-mail addresses and passwords. The young person did not misuse any of the accounts. The other perpetrator had executed a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on his school’s network. The attack temporarily disabled the school’s network.

Learning and work assignment

The Halt settlement for both young people consisted of a learning and work assignment. The learning assignment consisted of a number of parts. The young people reflected on their behaviour by writing a report of their offences and by making a presentation about cybercrime. Furthermore, they wrote a letter of motivation for the performance of their work assignment at one of the three companies, namely theFactor.e, Malengo or Insite Security.

The work assignment consisted of four parts: introduction, knowledge, testing and practising skills, and evaluation. The work assignment was performed on 27 and 28 December. On their first day, the young cybercriminals were welcomed at the office of Insite Security together with Malengo. The expectations for the work assignment were determined following a brief introduction and review of the learning assignments. In other words, the learning objective. This is succeeded by a number of lectures about hacking and responsible disclosure, among other subjects. On the second day, one perpetrator served his punishment at theFactor.e and the other one at Insite Security. At Insite Security, the young person’s skills as a hacker were tested. He had to perform various assignments in a laboratory setting. The other person was tested by theFactor.e on his skills as a programmer.

Successful pilot

The parties in question have jointly evaluated the pilot. Their conclusion is that the young people have been confronted in a suitable manner with their behaviour and their consequences. They believe that the risk of of recidivism has been reduced and that the young persons have been offered a better outlook for the future. Yet, a critic will probably say: “Is that really a punishment?” Do not be mistaken. Both young persons were arrested by the police, lost their computer, and had to report to a company during the holidays. For them, this felt like a punishment. Moreover, it is the ultimate impact that counts. No recidivism and a better outlook for the future. Consequently, there will be a continuation to the pilot.

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