One in four children has attempted hacking with one fifth believing that they could generate an income from the activity

A survey has found that one in four schoolchildren have attempted some level of hacking.

Despite 78 per cent agreeing that it is wrong, a quarter have tried to surreptitiously use a victims' password, with almost half saying that they were doing it ‘for fun'.

However 21 per cent aimed to cause disruption and 20 per cent thought they could generate an income from the activity. Five per cent said that they would consider it as a career move.

Of those who had tried hacking, a quarter had targeted Facebook accounts, 18 per cent went for a friend's email, seven per cent for online shopping sites, six per cent for their parent's email and five per cent breached the school website. A bold three per cent had honed their skills enough to aim much higher with corporate websites under their belts.

The survey was conducted by Tufin Technologies in conjunction with Cumbria Constabulary. Its deputy chief constable Stuart Hyde, said: “What this survey starkly 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.

“Only 53 per cent of the children surveyed felt that hacking (i.e. using someone else's account) 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. Hacking is illegal and we need to ensure everyone understands that.”

Reuven Harrison, CTO and co-founder of Tufin Technologies, said: “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. 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.”

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