Students think hacking is "cool" and some do it to make money

One in five college and university students have hacked computer systems despite recognising that it is wrong, according to new research.

Worryingly, the research from IT security firm Tufin Technologies, around a third (32%) of the 1000 students polled thought hacking was "cool" and a similar percentage considered hacking to be easy.

About a quarter (22%) said curiosity was their main reason for hacking. An entrepreneurial 15% revealed that they hacked to make money.

The survey found that 37% had hacked facebook accounts, 26% email accounts with 10% breaching online shopping accounts. Although 39% of hackers use their own computer, others have used public computers and networks with 32% a university machine and 23% using an internet café.

Unfortunately, the study also discovered that nearly half of the students (46%) had themselves fallen foul of hackers having had either their social networking or email accounts breached.

This research, which was supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) – builds on a study carried out in March amongst teenagers. Both surveys found that there was no gender bias with hackers being equally split between boys and girls.

Shaul Efraim of Tufin Technologies said: “It is clear we have a smart new generation emerging who understand how to get around computer systems – some are doing it just for fun others with slightly more sinister intent! It’s imperative that we begin to educate this generation about the good, the bad and the ugly side of the Internet and channel these skills appropriately and legally. Looking at these findings, from an IT security perspective, it would be good to see these talented individuals pursue a career in the security sector to ensure all organisations benefit from their obvious ability to strengthen security systems and stop the data breaches that litter the news sites today, and preventing hackers in the future - whether they’re seven or 70.

“What this survey clearly highlights is that hacking into personal online accounts whether email or facebook is happening regularly among the student population. 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. We live in a world where social networking, email and the internet is embedded into our every day lives from a far younger age so early education is essential to ensure young people know the devastating consequences this activity can have. What is concerning is the attitude of many of those surveyed felt that hacking (i.e., using someone else’s account) was acceptable, or even something to be admired – it is not. Hacking is illegal and we need to ensure everyone understands that.”

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