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Survey: 67% Of Adolescents Have Tried to Hack Friends' IM, Social Network Accounts

Panda Security study of 4,000 adolescents reveals extent of teenage hacking rates and exploration
05.13.2009 " GLENDALE, Calif., " Panda Security, a leading provider of IT security solutions, today announced the results of a four month survey carried out by Panda Security that analyzed the online behaviors, technology knowledge, and hacking activities of more than 4,000 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18 years old. The study results indicate that more than half of adolescents use the Internet daily, spending on average 18.5 hours a week connected. The survey revealed that some 32 percent of this online activity is dedicated to studying, while the remaining 68 percent involves leisure activities, such as online gaming, watching videos, listening to music, chatting, etc.

While 63 percent of parents declared concern for the online security of their children, relating to the threats to which they are exposed (contact with strangers, access to inappropriate content, etc.), none of them expressed among their main concerns, the risk that their children could be involved in illicit activities on the Internet.

However, some 67 percent of the young people surveyed admitted to having tried. Similarly, 20 percent confirmed that they had sent compromising photos of friends over the Internet or published them on the Web without prior consent.

The survey also revealed that 17 percent of adolescent users claim to have advanced technical knowledge and are able to find hacking tools on the Internet. Of these, 30 percent claim to have used them on at least one occasion. When asked why, 86 percent said that curiosity had led them to investigate these public tools.

According to Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs, "the advanced knowledge that many adolescents acquire through free tools and content available on the Web can often lead them to engage in illegal online activities. 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."

While there are many initiatives aimed at educating and promoting awareness of the many threats on the Web, there are far less that focus on detecting and addressing illegal behavior among adolescents.

"We should encourage young people to use the Internet as a channel for personal development, teaching them to use it in a healthy and responsible fashion. It is important to help them avoid the dubious activities which are driven by the anonymity of the Web, by educating them on the consequences and criminal charges," urges Corrons. "Even though the percentage is very low, we still come across many cases of adolescent cyber-criminals, such as the recent high-profile case of the 16-year-old creator of the Twitter worms. We estimate that just 0.5 percent of such criminal acts are being detected by the authorities. Those who are drawn into hacking out of curiosity may very likely end-up discovering the financial potential of this activity, and become the next generation of cybercriminals."