Is Your Teenager a Hacker?

Feb 10, 2016, 13:28 ET from Kaspersky Lab

LONDON, February 10, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --

Kaspersky Lab urges parents to question their teen's online habits ahead of Safer Internet Day 2016 

Research by Kaspersky Lab to mark Safer Internet Day 2016 reveals that one in ten (12 per cent) of 16 to 19 year olds in the UK know someone who has engaged in a cyber- activity that could be deemed illegal. The poll found a third (35 per cent) would be impressed if a friend hacked a bank's website and replaced the homepage with a cartoon, and a deeply worrying one in ten would be impressed if a friend hacked the air traffic control systems of a local airport.

Public awareness and understanding of the online behaviour of young people is vital, especially in light of the NCA's recent finding that the average age of a cyber-criminal is now just 17 years old. There's nothing new in teenagers being rebellious and pushing boundaries, what is new is how they are unwittingly involving themselves in the far more serious threats and dangers that lurk in the world of cybercrime.

"Rebellion, curiosity and an urge to demonstrate their independence are natural characteristics of the 16 to 19 age-group. As the first truly digital native generation, rebelling has simply become another aspect of their lives that can go digital. Cyber-crimes have become glamorised in society and represent an attack on the 'system' and allow individuals to express their teenage angst, in which they struggle to identify their place within society, and to achieve the kind of social validation and attention that many teenagers seek," comments Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, Consumer and Business Psychologist at University College London.

"It's frighteningly easy for teenagers to find their way into the dark corners of the internet today.  Specialist browsers required to gain access are freely available online and discussion groups used by cybercriminals are often open to outsiders.  Young people exploring, experimenting or taking their first steps towards making some easy money online can all too easily end up here in search of tools and advice.  Once in, they are vulnerable to exploitation for more complex schemes, perhaps being drawn into a fraudulent activity by playing the role of a money mule, or being asked to create a malicious program.  It's far harder to get out than it is to get in," comments David Emm, principal security researcher, Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab urges parents to create an environment for their children where discussions are open and where both parties can agree on what constitutes safe and ethical behaviour online, and to understand the consequences of negative behaviour. The National Crime Agency recently launched a campaign specifically aimed at preventing young people from becoming involved in cyber-crime. It is vital that parents and teachers are aware and understand what to look out for in teenagers and also find ways to use cyber skills positively.

Notes to editors: 

The survey by Arlington Research on behalf of Kaspersky Lab was conducted with 1,556 16-19 year olds who were surveyed over a period of 10 days. 

12 per cent are aware of someone who has undertaken a cyber-activity that could be deemed illegal.

Stealing data such as identity or financial credentials online is seen as by far the most serious on a list of criminal activities (65% give it a 4 or 5 severity rating). Breaking and entering was second place (54% give it a 4 or 5 severity rating)  

Interestingly, a pretty impressive 26% knows how to hide their IP address

The survey also questioned the teenagers on a range of hypothetical scenarios with some interesting findings: 

When asked how they'd feel if a friend managed to replace the homepage of a major bank with a cartoon and the story made headline news, over a third (35%) said that they'd be impressed.

Most shockingly, when asked how they'd feel if a friend managed to find a way into the air traffic control system of a local airport without getting found out, over one in 10 (11%) said they'd feel impressed.

When asked how they'd feel if a friend found their way into a celebrity's online email account and discovered lots of private pictures, 18% said they'd be impressed.

When asked how they'd feel if a friend managed to obtain all the names and addresses of people who had bought adult films online, 17% said that they'd be impressed.

The understanding of a 'cybercrime' other than that which affects them directly is average: Almost all understand cyberbullying (95%) and trolling (82%),

  • Almost half know about malware (41%) and phishing (44%),
  • A quarter (24%) about DDoS
  • This drops off for ransomware (17%) cryptomalware (13%)

Finally, the survey asked if a friend was doing things online that could be illegal, what would you do? The survey found that for the most part - teens don't really know what the right thing to do is:

  • There is misguided loyalty among teenagers that could make things worse: currently the top response (well over half) is to tell them to stop but not to tell anyone else
  • one in three will keep well out of it
  • 22% will ask about it but not join in
  • one in six will discuss it among friends
  • Over a quarter will tell a teacher or parent (18%)
  • 21% would report it to the police 

About Kaspersky Lab 

Kaspersky Lab is one of the world's fastest-growing cybersecurity companies and the largest that is privately-owned. The company is ranked among the world's top four vendors of security solutions for endpoint users (IDC, 2014). Since 1997 Kaspersky Lab has been an innovator in cybersecurity and provides effective digital security solutions and threat intelligence for large enterprises, SMBs and consumers. Kaspersky Lab is an international company, operating in almost 200 countries and territories across the globe, providing protection for over 400 million users worldwide. 

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Editorial contact:

Berkeley PR        
Lauren White

Telephone: +44(0)118-909-0909        
1650 Arlington Business Park        
RG7 4SA, Reading        

Kaspersky Lab UK
Stephanie Fergusson  

Telephone: +44(0)771-410-7292
2 Kingdom Street
W2 6BD, London

SOURCE Kaspersky Lab