The teenage hackers who've been given a second chance

Step inside the offices of Bluescreen and you'll find some of the UK's most talented teenage hackers, dragged from a world of crime to fight for the other side. These young computer experts have swapped the confines of their bedrooms for a fairly ordinary looking cybersecurity company in Plymouth. Bluescreen employs hackers the authorities have deemed worthy of a second chance, who pit their wits against some of the anonymous online criminals they used to see as brothers in arms.

When Jack was 19 years old, the police sent five squad cars, a tech team and a riot van to his home. "It was about 08:10 in the morning. I'd had the most awful night's sleep and I'd just started watching The Lion King. "It didn't even get past the intro before my bedroom door flew open and 10 police officers came in to arrest me. "I was not expecting that on any day of my life." The police were there for a good reason: when he was 16, Jack had stolen personal information from about 1,000 people.

He told police he'd never had any intention of using it for his own gain; to him, it was just an intellectual exercise. Stories like this are not uncommon at Bluescreen IT, which has a direct link with the police to find hackers in need of direction. These are young men who have been accused of serious crimes, but instead of being taken through the criminal justice system, they've been given a second chance. About 15 people work in the Security Operations Centre, a handful of whom have been referred to the company as hackers who aren't malicious in nature and are deemed capable of reform.

Another employee, Cameron, was arrested on his way to school when he was just 14 years old. Officers from the National Crime Agency had planned the sting so that Cameron would be out of the house, and unable to destroy his hard drives in the event he heard them coming. "Up to that point my biggest worry was that I hadn't done my maths homework," he said. "I was walking to school when I heard my name being called. I turned around and there was a man in a suit walking behind me. "Then I heard him say my name louder, so I turned around and said 'yeah?' and that's when he told me I was under arrest.

"I turned around and there were five more officers spread out across the grass. "I just didn't realise that what I'd done was that serious. It was all just one big joke - messing around - it never seemed like I was actually causing any real harm. I soon found out how serious it was."

"Grey hat hackers" like Jack and Cameron are seen as having committed their crimes for reasons that weren't to do with personal gain or cyber-terrorism. Sometimes it might have been a practical joke, or perhaps the motive was to launch a server-debilitating attack. Now they try to stop others - using the methods they once employed - from wreaking the same havoc.

For Jack, now 23, it was his "laziness" that led him into the world of computing. "I was 12. We'd just started doing algebra, but I didn't want to do it. "I went home and tried to make a calculator for algebra. It didn't really go well, but that is my earliest memory of that side of things. "I was trying to cut corners any way I could. Rather than studying, I would try and make it look like I was studying and doing well.

"I'd be failing in all my classes but pull it out of the bag at the last minute. After a while, the school had had enough of me. "I got my five GCSEs in Year 10 and then the school expelled me." Just four years after his arrest, Jack is now working at an advanced level, carrying out processes like penetration testing - trying to break into clients' servers to find weaknesses. He and Cameron, now 19, also defend against incoming attacks - an area where their hacking experience comes in handy.

information found on BBC news.