The stereotype of the teenage hacker wreaking havoc from his mother's basement has been replaced in recent years by the image of organized crime rings in Eastern Europe stealing financial information with banking Trojans.
But a survey of teenagers in New York City by Tufin Technologies indicates that hacking is far from dead among young people. Roughly 39 percent of the New York City teens said they think hacking is "cool," and about 16 percent admitted to trying it. Seven percent reported they hacked for money, and 6 percent said they viewed it as a viable career.
"Because kids today tend to be more tech savvy than their parents, and the processes, procedures, and precedents for some forms of Internet-based crime are still evolving, it's too easy for kids to not realize the dangers or consequences of hacking until they are no longer juveniles," said Monique Nelson, chief operating officer of the online safety organization WebWiseKids.org, in a statement.
"These young hackers are under the radar, with the majority hacking from home. Prevention is always an uphill battle, but it's imperative that parents do pay close attention to their children's attitudes and beliefs about what is appropriate - and legal - online behavior. We want to educate kids before they make bad choices, not because they already did."
Tufin performed an identical survey of 1,000 high school students in London that showed American teens may be underachieving in the cyber-underworld. According to Tufin, one in four of the teens in the U.K. had tried hacking. However, those in the U.K. were more likely to be discovered, with 27 percent stating they have either been caught or know someone who had, versus 15 percent in the United States.
In both countries, the No. 1 target for young hackers is Facebook, followed by their friend's e-mail accounts.
"Over the years, hacking has changed from teenage 'script kiddies' showing off their online prowess to sophisticated career criminals hacking for profit," said Ruvi Kitov, CEO of Tufin Technologies, in a statement. "Whether they target a company's intellectual property, a person's bank account or their Facebook page, our job as IT security professionals is to stop hackers in their tracks. We need to ingrain in our children that no matter how harmless your intent, to gain unauthorized access into another person or company's online assets is both wrong and illegal."