Recent high profile hacks on websites and online networks of large organisations have resulted in Brits feeling concerned about the threat of hacking, and calling for businesses and government to take firmer action.
According to a new report released by Professor Majid Yar, leading cybercrime expert from the University of Hull, commenting on the results of a survey by PC Tools, 97% of Brits believe online hacking is an issue we, as a society, should be worried about.
Britons condemn hackers
Recent large-scale security breaches by rogue individuals and cybercrime collectives that resulted in millions of UK internet users’ personal and financial details being compromised, have driven the nation to a state of concern and discontent.
Based on the survey results, one in five Brits has lost trust in large organisations and approximately one in six of respondents are disappointed by how the police have handled this public threat.
Although a number of these attacks have been attributed to ‘hacktivist’ groups, who claim their motivation behind this activity is to champion a political or social cause, nearly all Brits disapprove of this particular form of cybercrime.
Hacking never justified
According to the report, 40% of respondents argue that hacking is never justified, regardless of the motive or whether personal details are disclosed.
Around two-thirds believe hackers are criminals, over half of respondents feel they are dishonest, and one-in-three Brits believe them to be antisocial.
Only a small minority - less than 5% of respondents - consider hackers to be revolutionary or heroic, suggesting that in spite of the ambitions of ‘hacktivists’, their means of accessing information and the consequences to innocent internet users leaves them with diminished support for their cause.
Britons divided on a solution to hacking
Opinions on strategies to reduce hacking are divided, with 40% of Brits believing that tougher penalties for convicted hackers is the solution, whilst almost the same number argue that those with an aptitude for technology should be channelled into legitimate activities to help foster positive use of these skills.
Some respondents felt that the responsibility lies with those organisations holding personal information on their customers, with 39% urging businesses to invest in better security - or even encouraging companies to run reward schemes where ‘grey hat’ hackers receive payment for identifying security vulnerabilities in their system.
Commenting on the findings, author of the report, Professor Majid Yar, explains: "The tougher penalty approach has its flaws.
"In reality, very few members of the public actually know what the penalties are for those convicted - which in the UK is up to 5 years in prison - or how few hacking incidents actually ever lead to arrest and conviction, since it is so difficult to identify those responsible.
"The most viable way to protect computer users from hacking are: better security, technological counter-measures and user precautions."
Richard Clooke, Worldwide Review Program Manager at PC Tools, added: "These survey results show that people are no longer prepared to sit back and become targets for cybercriminals. It is important we don’t allow hackers to prevent us from enjoying our digital lifestyle.
"A simple step such as ensuring internet security software is up to date, as well as using strong unique passwords for each online account and checking the authenticity of a site before making an online transaction helps protect personal privacy and ensure people don’t become victims of cybercrime."