Teenagers are already in training to become the hackers of the future, according to a study by Panda Security.
The survey found that 67% of young people between 15 and 18 years old claim to have hacked the instant messaging or social networking account (such as Facebook, pictured) of friends on at least one occasion. Similarly, 20% confirmed that they had sent compromising photos of friends over the internet or published them on the web without prior consent.
In addition, 17% of those surveyed said they were able to find hacking tools online. Of these, 32% say they have used them out of curiosity.
‘The advanced knowledge that many adolescents acquire through free tools and content available on the web can often lead them into activities which are sometimes even illegal. We have found cases of teenagers using trojans to spy on their partners, hacking school servers to see exam papers or even stealing the identity of friends or colleagues on social networks’, says Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs.
While parents expressed concern for the online security of their children, in particular relating to the threats such as contact with strangers and access to inappropriate content none of them worried that children might themselves be engaged in illicit activity online.
‘Even though the percentage is very low, we still come across too many cases of adolescent cyber-criminals, such as the recent high-profile case of the 16-year-old creator of worms for Twitter. Those who are drawn into hacking out of curiosity, may well end up discovering the financial potential of this activity, and becoming criminals themselves,” says Currons.
The survey found that the adolescents surveyed spend on average 18.5 hours a week connected, not all of it engaged in illicit behaviour. Almost a third (32%) of this online time is dedicated to studying. The remaining 68% involves leisure activities, such as playing games online, watching videos, listening to music and chatting.
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