A recently released report from international marketing firm CPP Group has revealed that a surprising number of British citizens are engaging in casual computer hacking behavior.
According to the research, 13 percent of respondents admitted to accessing someone else's online accounts without permission. Much of this casual hacking takes place on popular social media sites as friends and acquaintances access and rearrange each other's digital profiles. Approximately one third of respondents viewed their hacking as something they did 'just for fun,' whereas others gained unwarranted access to monitor the behavior of family member and colleagues.
But although some of this behavior can be viewed as a harmless diversion, it may represent a more concerning commentary on technological culture.
"People may dismiss checking up on their friend or partner's accounts as a bit of fun, but in reality they are hacking," said CPP spokesman Danny Harrison. "Looking at someone's personal information without their knowledge is a serious act and one that could have serious repercussions both personally and professionally."
The CPP research also provided insight into fraud victimization trends. Nearly one out of every four respondents reported having their personal email accounts breached, with 7 percent reporting similar incidents with their work emails. Several respondents also reported direct financial consequences, as approximately 10 percent of users reported having unwarranted money and loans taken out in their name.
One notable enabler of this concerning behavior has been the prevalence of online hacking tutorials. With a simple search, motivated hackers can easily gain access to step-by-step tutorials on how to breach everything from Facebook and Twitter accounts to wireless networks and even CCTV. According to CPP estimates, as many as 20,000 such tutorials may be currently available for viewing on YouTube.
"We would urge everyone to be very careful about sharing passwords and to be vigilant about monitoring their accounts," cautioned Harrison.
To keep personal and business data safe, consumers are advised to follow several best practices. Establishing lengthy and obscure passwords is always desirable, and changing them frequently may also be an effective strategy. Users are also encouraged to resist accessing and transmitting sensitive data over free or otherwise unsecured wireless networks. This is especially important for smartphones, and consumers would be wise to disable default settings that may automatically connect their device to the nearest network.
Even the most vigilant and informed online safety habits may not be enough to protect users in a constantly evolving cybersecurity landscape. For consumers and businesses alike, adopting comprehensive data security solutions from qualified vendors will likely provide the best chance to protect critical information across all channels.