Pre-teen children are increasingly developing malicious code, anti-virus company AVG is warning.
In one case, it says, an eleven-year-old created a Trojan to steal game login information. By analyzing the source code, the team was able to establish where the boy lived - and even that he'd recently acquired an iPhone.
"We have now seen a number of examples of very young individuals writing malware, including an 11-year-old from Canada," says Yuval Ben-Itzhak, AVG's chief technology officer.
"The code usually takes the form of a basic Trojan written using the .NET framework, which is easy to learn for beginners and simple to deploy via a link in an email or posted on a social media page."
In general, says AVG, these young hackers appear to be motivated by simple showing off. But online gaming accounts are often connected to credit card details to enable in-game purchases, meaning there could be serious consequences.
And because many gamers use the same login details for social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, there's also a risk of cyber-bullying and identity theft.
"AVG’s Digital Diaries studies have pointed to kids of all ages becoming technically savvy at ages earlier than we expected, but while writing malware is surprising, technically the code, while harmful, is not that sophisticated," says Ben-Itzhak.
"Nevertheless, it’s a disturbing and increasing trend and it would be logical to assume that at least some of these kids will be tempted to experiment with attempting much more serious cyber-crimes as they grow up."