Teenagers have admitted that they can find hacking tools online, with a third having attempted it.
Research by Panda Security found that 67 per cent of 15 to 18-year-olds have tried on at least one occasion to hack into friends' instant messaging or social network accounts.
It also found that 17 per cent claimed to have advanced technical knowledge of the internet and were able to find hacking tools online. Of these, 30 per cent claim to have used them on at least one occasion and when asked why, 86 per cent cited curiosity.
Similarly, 20 per cent confirmed that they had sent compromising photos of friends over the internet or published them on the web without prior consent.
Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs, claimed that while there are initiatives aimed at educating and promoting awareness of threats on the web, there are far less that focus on detecting and addressing illegal behaviour.
Corrons said: “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.”
He further claimed that it was not the internet that was to blame, as it should be seen and used as a channel for personal development and young people should be taught to use it in a healthy and responsible way.
“It is important to help them avoid participating in dubious activities which are made all the easier thanks to the anonymity afforded by the web. Those who are drawn into hacking out of curiosity, may well end up discovering the financial potential of this activity, and becoming criminals themselves," said Corrons.