Research by Kaspersky Lab has revealed teenagers don’t know who to talk to about activities that could be deemed illegal online. A misguided sense of loyalty and not knowing where to turn may explain why half of the 16 to 19 year olds polled (56%) said they would advise a friend to stop but not tell anyone else.
The research found that 18% would want to tell a teacher or parent but would worry about getting their friend into trouble, and 15% would only discuss it within their friendship group.
There is nothing new about teenagers pushing the boundaries when it comes to exploring and experimenting online, what is new is how they are potentially involving themselves in cybercriminal activity. Only recently an 18 year old was charged with a hacking attack on Mumsnet, which caused the parenting site to reset its 7.7 million members' passwords.
“For young people asserting their newly found freedom online as a young adult, it can be tempting to use their skills to push security boundaries, or even to get drawn into making quick money by engaging in illegal activity online,” said David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
He added: “However, unfortunately it’s much harder to get out of the web a cybergang creates than it is to get in. What’s clear from our findings is that peer groups aren’t sure what approach to take with a friend engaging in illegal activity online or where to turn to for advice to support them.”
For young people asserting their newly found freedom online as a young adult, it can be tempting to use their skills to push security boundaries, or even to get drawn into making quick money by engaging in illegal activity online
The research closely follows findings from earlier this year that show one in 10 (12%) 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 also found a third (35%) 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, demonstrating teenagers can be amused rather than concerned by such activities.
Kaspersky Lab urges parents and schools to create an environment for 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 the cyber choices campaign specifically aimed at preventing young people from becoming involved in cybercrime. It is vital that parents and teachers are aware and understand what behaviour to look out for and also to encourage ways of using cyber skills positively.