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Does using Discord make your child a hacker? Only in the eyes of West Midlands Police

Discord hacker
Hacked off: the police are telling teachers Discord is a danger

Is chatting away on Discord a sign that a child is a criminal hacking genuis? Staggeringly, that’s what the West Midlands Police are telling teachers.

A leaflet (shown below) distributed by the force’s Regional Organised Crime Unit and the National Crime Agency includes a list of apps and operating systems for teachers to keep an eye out for on a child’s computer.

(Credit to @G_IW on Twitter, who first tweeted this leaflet.)

The leaflet tells teachers to keep an eye out for various pieces of software, including the Tor browser which is used to “access the dark web”, a Linux distro that is “often used for hacking” and gamers’ favourite chat service Discord, which the police claim is “often used to share hacking tips”.

“If you see any of these on their computer, or have a child you think is hacking, let us know so we can give advice and engage them in positive diversions,” the leaflet warns.

So should you worry that your child is trying to crack into MI5 if you spot Discord on their computer or phone? Almost certainly not.

What is Discord?

Discord is a hugely popular voice and text chat service among gamers. If your kid plays Fortnite with his/her mates, there’s a good chance they use Discord for the voice chat instead of the game’s ropey built-in system.

Aside from gaming, Discord is used by such (ahem) renowned underworld organisations as Adobe for running Photoshop challenges, and Microsoft for engaging with its developers. Almost every major computer game will have its own Discord server for making announcements and allowing players to chat. It has, according to Wikipedia, a quarter of a billion active users worldwide. To suggest any child with Discord on their computer is using it to swap hacking tips is a monumental over-reaction.

West Midlands Police have attempted to defend the leaflet, after it inevitably caused a huge rumpus on Twitter. “The poster – produced by a third party – was created as an aide memoire to assist teachers with safeguarding in schools,” the West Midlands Police tweeted. “It was taken from wider information on cyber tools which could be used to commit cyber attacks, but equally have a legitimate purpose.”

If the poster had said a computer with ALL those tools was a potential hacking risk, it might have been defensible. But to suggest ANY of them is a sign of potential criminal intent is ridiculous.

If the West Midlands Police is swamped by reports from teachers that half their class appears to be up to no good, it’s only got itself to blame.

NOW READ THIS: Are VPNs legal?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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