EXCLUSIVE: I was a cybercriminal and tricked unsuspecting victims out of THOUSANDS – here’s how to keep YOUR kids safe online
- ‘Harry’ was just 12 years old when he scammed another gamer for the first time
- He warns that crime is any easy option for children who just want pocket money
An ex-cybercriminal has warned of the dangers children face online after getting tangled up in scams himself at the age of 12.
The man in his 20s, referred to only as ‘Harry’, has expressed regrets over previous offences, having tricked computer gamers out of thousands during his younger years.
These harmful scams took off at a time when Harry was keen to make pocket money, with no option to get a job of his own.
But with children now increasingly fixated on the virtual world, he says that protections are vital to ensure they are sheltered from dark practices.
‘As a kid, I didn’t feel anything about it at all. I’d get big scams and take my friends to McDonald’s and pay for it. Things like that,’ Harry told MailOnline.
‘Harry’ was just 12 years old when he scammed another gamer for the first time online
WHAT ARE DARKCOMET RATS?
Backdoor.DarkComet is a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) application.
This refers to a type of malware an attacker can use to gain full control of a target computer.
It can run in the background silently taking data from the computer owner.
Passwords and usernames can often be stolen this way in addition to any other credentials.
The software can allow users to install malware onto a computer for whatever purpose.
‘But after it was all over, it really got to me that it was other kids that I had scammed. I started thinking about how it was received from their end.
‘It’s probably a little harder to do what I did now, but it is fairly easy. That’s a huge risk to kids. You can just download DarkComet RATS (Remote Access Trojans) and you’re ready to go.’
Harry’s first scam took place out of anger when a player of the first-person shooter game, Counter-Strike (CS: GO), tricked him.
This player stole a virtual weapon, known as a Huntsman Knife Crimson Web, which currently sells for more than £1,000 ($1,278) on trading sites such as CSGOSkins.gg.
But this is by no means the most expensive, with other in-game weapons selling for £19,500 ($25,000) in some cases.
These are obtained through a lucky-dip style function, with players spending £5 ($6.39) for ‘cases’ that may have one inside.
‘Someone messaged me saying “I’ll buy your knife and I’ll send you money for it”,’ Harry continued.
‘After a bit of convincing I sent them the knife and of course they didn’t send me any money.
‘Out of anger, I just repeated what the guy did on me to someone else. I didn’t have much success at first, but enough to remain interested. The more time I spent on it, the more convincing I made my scam.’
Harry’s first scam took place out of anger when a player of the first-person shooter game, Counter-Strike (CS: GO) (pictured), tricked him
The Huntsman Knife Crimson Web currently sells for more than £1,000 on trading sites
Harry believes he scammed more than 100 people over the course of his early-teens, with £700 ($895) being the most he earned at one time.
Screenshots of fake PayPal transactions and encouraging friends to vouch for his trustworthiness initially made this very easy.
He said: ‘There was a bit of a trading scene at the time. So, you could join a trade server and there’d be people looking for items, swap things around – stuff like that.
‘I’d look at profiles of people that were trusted and respected on there and make my profile look trusted and respectable.
‘I remember one time I went to a friend and we wanted to play GTA (Grand Theft Auto) and he didn’t have it and he was like “ah can you quickly scam someone so we can buy it” – so I did.’
During his early-teens, Harry also delved into hacking forums to play around with viruses.
He was completely oblivious to the severity of his actions and claims it was all far too easy.
‘I would spend a lot of time on hacking forums. I played around with viruses. It was like you didn’t have to have much technical knowledge at all. Using it is extremely easy. Anyone could use it – no problem,’ Harry continued.
During his early-teens, Harry also delved into hacking forums to play around with viruses
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An unethical ‘black hat’ turned ‘white hat’ hacker bound by a moral code explained how bad actors use ransomware for large payouts or ‘to just see the world burn’
‘I once found a virus undetectable to anti-viruses which I then disguised as nude pictures. So I then just googled “sex chat” and put a suggestive name in that would indicate I’m a woman.
‘You might say “do you want to see a picture of me” – of course they want to see a picture of you. You can send a picture that’s not really a picture – they run it -then you can look at their screen and play around.’
Based on his experience, Harry is encouraging parents to ensure their children’s devices are equipped with sufficient anti-virus software and ad blockers.
‘Parents can monitor all this and make sure proper antivirus is installed on the PC. And an adblocker too, since malvertising is huge at the moment,’ he said.
‘There’s a massive boom in in-game item prices. They hit a record-high of new players recently and the release of CS2 is imminent – attracting more kids.
‘Things like TikTok videos saying “join this group of trusted traders”, “here’s how to sell these items” will pop up. It’s too easy to rope people in.’
While TikTok is among numerous platforms that do not tolerate fraud and scams, Jake Moore, a Global Security Advisor at ESET, claims this content persists.
He warns that offenders may just get even younger as a result of this.
‘Online forums are rife with illicit how-to-guides and as the visitors to these websites get younger, so do those carrying out these offences,’ Mr Moore said.
‘These relatively simple and straight forward step-by-step guides offering scams and sending viruses prey on those who are vulnerable and innocently using the internet who may not be used to the types of cons that appear online.
‘There is also information offering how to protect themselves from being caught which only increases the amount of people committing these offences as well as victims being scammed.’
While cyberbullying and cyber safety have become key parts of the curriculum in many schools, Mr Moore claims that key cybersecurity advice often gets overlooked.
He added: ‘Ideally, prevention measures and education on such topics needs to be added into the curriculum and continually reinforced before more children become victims of online crime.’
WHAT IS MALVERTISING?
Malicious advertising – or malvertising – describes advertisements that are designed to harm people and businesses.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between a real advert and a malicious one as they often appear exactly the same.
Usually, malvertising installs a tiny piece of code on your computer before sending it to a criminal command and control sever.
This scans your computer and decides what malicious software is best to do harm.
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