A small group of volunteers with limited technological knowledge were taught how to hack a secure account in less than 15 minutes.

The volunteers followed a 14-minute classroom-style tutorial, which is freely available online, and from this, they were able to download hacking software that allowed them to access login details and passwords for email accounts, social networking sites and online shopping accounts within a matter of minutes.

The volunteers, who signed a disclaimer saying they would not use the information for illegal or malicious attacks, learned how to operate a ‘man-in-the-middle' technique to hack into a computer network and obtain a victim's credentials

There are currently over 20,000 videos on YouTube with basic hacking information tips teaching users how to hack social media profiles, email, smartphones and PayPal accounts. According to research, 63 per cent believe that these ‘hacking' tutorials should be removed.

Michael Lynch, identity fraud expert at CPP, who co-conducted the session with Firebrand Training, said that it is important that people are aware of the risks so they can take the necessary steps to protect their identities and manage any compromised data.

He said: “As our live session has shown, these hacking 'skills' can be applied within minutes, so it's crucial for consumers to take steps to protect themselves. With an increased demand for tighter online security, we're calling on the government to review access to these online hacking lessons and implement tighter regulation of internet hacking communities.”

Robert Chapman, CEO of Firebrand Training, said: “The wide availability of free hacking tools is a real concern and everyone is a target. These resources are only going to grow and become more advanced, meaning that organisations and individuals must take steps to protect themselves. We demonstrated how a very basic way of hacking could be used to steal millions of pounds from the unprepared.”