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Inside the Boot Camp Reforming Teenage Hackers

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hacker rehab program

The young hackers go through a different kind of rehab program.

Credit: Katie Collins / CNET

The "cyber crime intervention workshop" in South West England is essentially a rehab camp for young hackers. It represents a way to deal with teenagers who show exceptional technical talent but poor judgment. The workshops reroute them, show them they have options, and high earning capabilities. The hope is that they will see the light and turn from black hat to white hat before slipping too far down the rabbit hole.

"[Parents] think: they're sitting in their bedroom on their computer, aren't they smart?," says Debbie Tunstall, head of education programs at Cyber Security Challenge, which runs the program in partnership with the U.K.'s National Crime Agency. "A lot of the time they don't realize they're doing something wrong until it's a little bit too late."

By identifying these individuals, the U.K. is hoping to build up a workforce that's more proficient in technology. There will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally in 2021, according to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures. The dearth of talent in this area could mean less competitive local businesses, as well as leaving the country vulnerable to out-and-out cyber warfare at a time when hacks are a regular occurrence.

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