Police in several regions of China have reported that computer hackers seem to be younger than in the past.
Six men 18 to 25 years old were caught by police in the Binjiang district of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in mid-August for hacking into the database of a gaming website to steal, and then sell, the personal information of its registered users.
The men were detained on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer information system, police said on Monday. An investigation is continuing.
It was the first time in such as case that all the suspects were born after 1980, the police said.
Shanghai's Xuhui district police said more than 75 percent of suspects caught in the past three years for internet hacking were born after 1980.
Lin Chaoqiu, a senior officer of internet security from Jieyang, Guangdong province, said a clear trend toward younger internet hackers has become apparent in recent years.
Hacking "is highly related to the personalities of people at this age, as they are usually curious and like to show off", Lin was quoted as saying by Southern Legal News.
"Some people around 20 may believe that it is tremendously cool to be a hacker and assault a computer system," he said. "It's a way to prove they are better than computer technology."
Some cybersecurity experts said another reason is that the young generation, which grew up with the internet, is more widely skilled in computer techniques.
One report on the internet skills of children in Guangdong province said nearly one in four children aged 3 to 6 spend more than 30 minutes a day surfing the internet.
The report, based on a survey of more than 6,000 families, was published on Saturday.
Another reason is that software for stealing information from computer systems or databases on the internet is becoming available online these days, said Zhu Wei, deputy director of the Research Center on Communication Laws at the China University of Political Science and Law.
"Hackers used to be a group of individuals with superior internet skills, but now they can be very young and haven't necessarily received intensive education in computer technology," he said.
Zhu said a typical behavior of hackers now is to purchase personal information through illegal means, and then use hacking software to automatically try passwords made of numbers contained in the information to make online payments.