Research reveals 1 in 4 children have tried hacking

The survey, from Tufin Technologies, says that 47% of those admitting Facebook hacking guilt are girls. The study of 1000 youngsters from London and 150 from Cumbria found that, although 27% were doing so from the relatively safe confines of their bedrooms, 22% are using internet cafes and 21% are hacking from school. Interestingly, 19% of respondents to the survey also said they had used a friend's computer to hack.

The most common reason was for fun (46%); however, 21% aimed to cause disruption and a resourceful 20% thought they could generate an income from the activity. A small minority (5%) said they were switching to the dark side as a career move.

The survey, which was undertaken in conjunction with Cumbria Constabulary, found that a good third of respondents had fallen victim to hackery, having had their Facebook or email accounts broken into without authorisation.

Researchers also found that Cumbrian children with hacking habits were much younger than their city counterparts, with 78% having done so before their 13th birthday – in London 44% were under 16, with only 16% of these yet to enter their teens.

Delving into the survey results reveals that 27% of the kids who were hacking admitted they were caught. 82%, meanwhile, confessed that hacking wasn't actually that easy in practice, and a commendable 70% labelled the practice as uncool.

Stuart Hyde, deputy chief constable with Cumbria Constabulary, said that what this survey highlights is that hacking into personal online accounts, whether email or Facebook, can be child's play if users do not protect their own passwords.

"It illustrates the importance of keeping your passwords strong, secure and changing them regularly to help protect your accounts from unscrupulous people of all ages", he said.

"We live in a world where social networking, email and the internet are embedded into our every day lives from a far younger age, so early education is essential to ensure young people know the devastating consequences this activity can have", he added.

Only 53% of the children surveyed felt that hacking was illegal, which shows there is a real need to educate youngsters to the dangers, both so they are deterred from trying it and also so they know how to protect their own accounts.

Commenting on the results, Reuven Harrison, CTO of Tufin Technologies, said that one of the most worrying statistics from this survey is the staggering numbers of kids that are successful and the ages involved.  "Hacking has changed a lot in the past few years from the curiosity or fun factor to now making serious money or causing havoc in the corporate environment", he said.

"Our job as IT security professionals is to stop hackers in their tracks and that means educating the kids, as the police have said, at a very young age", he added.

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