Children as young as 11 years old are writing malicious computer code for hacking accounts on gaming sites and social networking sites, experts have said.
A report from antivirus company AVG detailed evidence of programmes written to "steal" virtual currency.
In one case, researchers were able to reverse-engineer "amateur" code to reveal data about the identity of one 11-year-old child in Canada.
According to the BBC, the researchers found that many instances of malware targeting games popular with children shared the same characteristics.
Most were written using basic coding languages such as Visual Basic and C#, and were written in a way that contain quite literal schoolboy errors that professional hackers were unlikely to make, many exposing the original source of the code.
Many schools around the world are changing education programmes in schools to teach children to code, rather than simply to use, computers.
In the UK, several after-school clubs have been set up - and initiatives to get kids into programming have been backed by the likes of Google and Microsoft.
The team examined closely one particular instance of code that masqueraded as a cheat program for gamers playing Runescape, an online title that has over 200 million signed-up players, the report said.
The programme promised to give the gamer free virtual currency to use in the game, but it in fact was being used to steal log-in details from unsuspecting users, it added.