1 in 10 Britons Engage in ‘Honest Hacking’

1 in 10 Britons Engage in 'Honest Hacking'

“Honest hacking”—is there such a thing? About 10% of the UK population seems to think so.

We’re not talking about white hat activities here. Research from Manchester-based security firm Online Spy Shop found that one in 10 Britons have hacked into another person’s social media or email account for what they deem to be “honest” reasons. Excuses for so-called “ethical snooping” include: Investigating infidelity; helping someone make a surprise marriage proposal; tracking down a missing person; and being asked by a significant other to check messages.

Eli Zheleva from Portsmouth for instance used a browser vulnerability to hack her friend’s email, and reset her social media passwords to find her location after she went missing.

“A friend of mine went missing,” he explained in the report. “Her housemate called me to let me know she's stormed off. Later on, he found a rather negative note buried under other paperwork on her desk. It wasn't suicidal as such, but it had lines such as ‘I don't want to live amongst people who'd rather I was not alive.’”

He added, “We didn't know where she was and she had left her phone at the house, thus we couldn't contact her, all we knew is that she'd had some alcohol to drink and then drove off, which worried us even more. She was supposed to take a flight to Bulgaria a week later and we were wondering if she'd rebooked her flight to leave earlier. We were desperate to discover her location. Thankfully she did turn up safe and well. The moral of the story is never to use the same passwords for different accounts. It was worryingly easy to get into her email account."

It should also be noted that a larger percentage, 22%, admitted trying to hack a partner’s social media or email for dishonest reasons at least once—and one in three of those guessed the right password.

Also, the study uncovered that two in three (62%) are accidental hackers, having inadvertently logged into someone else’s account on a shared computer or finding the account already logged in. Fair enough but…90% of accidental hackers failed to log out immediately, and half (48%) who stayed logged in performed at least one action in the account.

Those actions include checking the inbox (31%); checking notifications (26%); opening messages (24%); posting from the account (15%); and copying or forwarding a message (4%).

Only one in 10 (12%) immediately realized their mistake and logged out.

For all of these categories—“honest,” deliberate and accidental hacking—Facebook was the most common target, representing 76% of the incidents.

Steve Roberts, a former close protection and surveillance operative who now runs Online Spy Shop, believes Britain has a big issue when it comes to protecting and respecting digital privacy.

“It’s so easy to leave yourself open to invasions of privacy,” he said. “Either by leaving yourself logged in, or just by allowing your browser to save your password. You become reliant on the honesty of others to protect your privacy.”

He added, "It’s shocking to think that only one in 10 of us can resist the temptation to log out right away when we find ourselves looking at someone else’s private information, but it’s even more shocking that some people think it’s OK to breach another person’s online privacy because the ends justify the means."

Photo © Myimagine

Source: Information Security Magazine