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What can be done to keep students from becoming cybercriminals?

I've read recently that cybercriminals are redoubling their efforts to recruit college students, offering them lucrative payments toward school in return for their services. Do you see this as a significant issue, and as someone who works in academia, what can be done to keep students from turning to the dark side?

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A business is only as good as its people, and cyber fraud is very much a business (a large one, at that). Cybercriminals need to recruit talented foot soldiers to run their scams and schemes and continue to steal private information from consumers around the world.

As such, one would expect these criminal organizations to use somewhat traditional recruiting tactics, like paying for school and giving cash bonuses. It is an issue in many developing economies, where the technical talent and expertise of the population far outstrips the individual's ability to make an honest, legitimate living.

The reality is, there is no silver bullet to keep these students from joining a crime organization -- other than to give them the ability to make a similar wage from a legitimate organization. It's as simple as that. There will always be those who prefer the life of crime, but most people tend to act in their own best interests, especially when it comes to survival.

So if these developing economies continue to invest in providing legitimate work and real economic opportunity, funding entrepreneurial endeavors, as well as prosecuting crime with real consequences, many students will stick to an honest lifestyle.

But as long as they can make more money with little risk, I predict they will continue to turn to the "dark side."

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This was first published in August 2008

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