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Do teens hack? Survey says 1 in 6 do

A newly released survey, ‘Teenage Hacking Habits’, reveals that based on a sample of 1000 teenagers, 16% admitted to hacking, 34% had already started by age 13, 84% by age 16, and 51% hack from home. Are "hacker moms" to blame?
Written by Dancho Danchev on

A newly released survey, ‘Teenage Hacking Habits’, reveals that based on a sample of 1000 teenagers, 16% admitted to hacking, 34% had already started by age 13, 84% by age 16, and 51% hack from home.

Do U.S teens hack more than U.K teens? What's the most valuable hacking target from a teen's perspective? Do girls hack more than boys? What drives them to engage in such activities from a psychological perspective?

Here are the details from Tufin's survey:

  • American kids hack less, are hacked more and get caught hacking substantially less than their UK counterparts
  • Facebook is the number one target for young hackers in the US (20%) and the UK (27%), followed by their friends’ email accounts. (6% US & 18% UK)
  • 29% of those who admitted to hacking were girls
  • 87% of US kids had tried hacking by age 16 as opposed to only 44% of their UK peers
  • The most common reason cited for hacking was for fun  (54%) followed by curiosity (30%)
  • 14% that hack aimed to cause disruption and a resourceful 7% of US kids thought they could generate an income from the activity, with 6% viewing it as a viable as a career path
  • In the UK, one in four (26%) have tried hacking with 36% - or roughly one in three – reporting that they have been hacked
  • In the US, 16% of students, or roughly one in six hack and exactly half (50%) have had their Facebook or email accounts compromised
  • 18% of London and a surprising 30% of NYC students agreed hacking is easy

And whereas in the context of the survey, the term "hacking" constitutes Facebook or email account compromise, its findings indicate a trend towards active experimenting with hacking practices on behalf of curious teenagers, some of them already hoping to generate revenue, or perceiving it as a career path.

A similar survey conducted by PandaSecurity last year, offers similar results. By sampling 4,000 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18 years old, they found out that 67 percent of the young people surveyed admitted to having tried, on at least one occasion, to hack into friends’ instant messaging or social network accounts, etc. with curiosity stated as the main reason for experimenting with hacking tools.

Are today's teens experimenting with Facebook and email account hacking, tomorrow's sophisticated cybercriminals pushing crimeware? To some this may be a far-fetched scenario since the majority of the surveyed teens are harvesting the low-hanging fruit (weak passwords and password resetting questions), but if ethics aren't present, every time a teen hacks a Facebook account, he or she is developing capabilities.

These very same capabilities have the potential to mature into what's known as the commercialization of email hacking, a process done as a service by groups of teens who have excelled in the process of socially engineering their prospective victims.

Combined with the increasing availability of sophisticated crimeware and DIY malware tools, a Facebook "hacker" today, can easily have access to tools and techniques once "reserved for" sophisticated attackers only, tomorrow.

Who's to blame? That depends. In the most recent case indicating just how low the entry barriers have become these days, a teen is suing his mom for hacking into his Facebook account. What do you think - should teens be literally spied on with prevention in mind, or should they be educated on the consequences of their actions?

TalkBack.

Image courtesy of The Joy of Tech Cartoon.

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