Young hackers who participated in the Wikileaks revenge attacks against PayPal, Visa and MasterCard are jeopardising their futures and face serious consequences because of their actions, according to a member of the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
A wave of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks recently knocked out the websites of multinational payment services companies, which had prevented donations being made to the whistleblower website Wikileaks.
The revenge attacks were coordinated by individuals across the globe, in a group operating under the name of Anonymous.
AFP high-tech crime investigations acting coordinator Richard Chin said that the high-profile attacks against corporations were likely to attract the attention of law enforcement, but would not comment on whether the federal police is investigating the matter.
He believed those involved could face serious consequences as a result of their actions, and said that any charges would affect their future career prospects and ability to migrate around the world.
"The offences if you look at them are very serious, they're not the usual misdemeanour type things that maybe a juvenile might get involved in the real or physical world," Chin said.
"These are the same sorts of offences that very sophisticated criminals are going to jail for."
"If I was a teenager that would maybe [be] thinking about participating in those sorts of activities or interacting with people like that, you really want to think twice about jeopardising your entire future in getting caught up in something like that."
The Wikileaks response is similar to another recent attack coordinated by Anonymous in September 2009, when DDoS attacks took down government websites in response to the plan to introduce an internet filter.
Recently, 19-year-old Steven Slayo pled guilty to four charges in relation to the attacks, but escaped conviction after the magistrate decided "while the attacks were not trifling nor trivial, Slayo was an intelligent and gifted student whose future would be damaged by a criminal record".
That investigation was coordinated by Chin's department, and he said the case was an example of how young hackers' enthusiasm and passion could jeopardise their futures.
"When you're talking about general juvenile delinquency, people might do some silly things when they're younger, but when you're talking about computer intrusion, or denial of service, it looks pretty bad if you're criminally convicted of that sort of offence.
"Internationally that's a very bad look, when you go to get a job your employers are not going to look on that favourably.
"That stigmatises yourself, your family and puts you in a bad position overall, it may be years later, those things continue to hound you."
The AFP charged a number of young people in relation to these types of offences, he said, and has a number of proactive and reactive measures to combat this, including raising the awareness of the criminal implications of cybercrime.