One in ten children believe they have the chops to breach websites and online accounts, but only 8% of parents are concerned about this potential problem.
That’s the verdict from cybersecurity researcher Kaspersky, which commissioned Censuswide to survey around 500 children in the UK aged 12 to 17.
Less than half (44%) of parents put restrictions on their children’s internet access, suggesting that the more technically gifted ones aren’t short of chances to test and hone their skills.
The problem arises, says Kaspersky, when children start to see hacking as a “victimless crime” — which, of course, it isn’t.
But while six in ten children said they would feel bad about stealing money from a parent’s wallet or purse, just half that proportion would have scruples about using someone else’s credit card details to make purchases online.
“The reality is that an increasing number of children are being exposed to online hacking groups, with the potential for these groups to lure them into illegal activities,” said a Kaspersky spokesman. “Hacking an online account may lack a physical touchpoint, but the consequences can be severe, for example disrupting business operations, governments, or vital public services such as hospitals.”
He added: “On top of this, this behavior can unknowingly expose children to age-restricted content or illegal goods, such as firearms and drugs, without them ever having to leave their bedroom.”
Self-styled ‘menace’ hacked his school for ‘fun’
One respondent claimed to have “got into” hacking aged 12, after his friend hijacked his WhatsApp account but refused to say how he’d pulled it off.
“From that day on, I became obsessed with hacking,” said the boy, whose name is withheld for legal reasons due to his age. “I would stay up until two or three in the morning on my computer, writing scripts and talking to fellow hackers.”
His education suffered as a result. “I got so engrossed in it that I failed a year of school because I didn’t attend enough,” he said. “The truth is I was just too tired and distracted with what was going on in my hacking life. It got to the point that the only time I did go to school was to install viruses to check that they worked.”
He claimed: “I was copying and pasting snippets of code from online sources and creating scripts which could bypass school programs. These codes let me take full control of other computers and turn off certain functions such as webcams or the ability to use a microphone.”
Eventually, he says he got caught and found himself in trouble with his father and teachers, who expelled him from school. Despite that, he claims he is a “good guy” and that his “conscience is clear.”
“Despite being caught, I still consider myself a ‘Greyhat’, which basically means I’m a hacker who sometimes breaks laws or rules, but mostly does not have any of the malicious intent that’s typical of a black-hat hacker,” he said. “I do stupid stuff online, but underneath it — I’m a good guy. My only goal is to make a bit of money so I can go out with my friends, grab a pizza, and have fun.
“Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what I do because I haven’t harmed or caused damage to anybody, at least that I know about. I’m just a kid messing around making a menace of myself. That’s all. My conscience is clear.”
Cybernews was unable to verify the authenticity of these statements at the time of going to press.
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