Brits Condemn Hackers And Call For Tougher Penalties

Britons are increasingly concerned about the impact of today’s online hackers and want tougher action

With hacking attacks nowadays seeming to be an everyday occurrence, a new survey has revealed that 97 percent of Brits feel that it is an issue that society as a whole, must be concerned about.

The survey by Windows security specialist, PC Tools, also revealed that one in five Brits have lost their trust in large organisations because of the recent upsurge in hacking attacks. And roughly one in six are disappointed at how the police have handled this public threat.

The survey also raised another interesting point. It seems that we, the general public, make no differentiation between the criminally-minded hacker, and those that hack for a political or social cause, the so-called ‘hacktivist’ groups (Anonymous, LulzSec etc). Indeed, the survey found that nearly all Brits disapprove of this particular form of cybercrime.

Hacking Criminals?

The belief that hacking is just plain wrong is evinced by 40 percent of respondents, who feel that hacking is never justified, regardless of the motive or whether personal details are disclosed. Meanwhile two-thirds labelled hackers as criminals, while over half feel they are dishonest. One-in-three Brits believe them to be antisocial.

Yet there is a tiny core of people that do support hackers, as the survey revealed that a small minority (less than 5 percent) consider hackers to be revolutionary or even heroic.

Despite this small minority, these survey findings may worry some within the ‘hacktivist’ community. It seems that the recent large scale attacks against the likes of Sony, Mastercard, and even some governments, is actually not gaining them any public support.

Nothing new

Of course, hacking is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, one only has to watch the film ‘Wargames‘ staring Matthew Broderick (made in 1983) to realise that hacking has been around ever since the modern computer became a part of our daily lives.

Yet the scale of hacking attacks has been increasing of late, and these attacks are also becoming more sophisticated, which is increasing the concern for most online users. Despite this concern, however, people’s opinions are split on the best strategy to try and reduce hacking incidents.

The survey found that 40 percent of Brits believe tougher penalties for convicted hackers is the best solution, but the same percentage also believe that those users with an aptitude for technology should be channelled into legitimate activities to help foster positive use of these skills.

Meanwhile some people are blaming the organisations and entities themselves that are the victims of these attacks. 39 percent state that businesses must invest in better security. Others are calling for  companies to run reward schemes where ‘grey hat’ hackers receive payment for identifying security vulnerabilities in their system.

Digital Lifestyle

“The tougher penalty approach has its flaws,” explained cybercrime expert, Professor Majid Yar of of the University of Hull, and author of the report. “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,” he stated.

“These survey results show that people are no longer prepared to sit back and become targets for cybercriminals,” said Richard Clooke, Worldwide Review Program Manager at PC Tools.

“It is important we don’t allow hackers to prevent us from enjoying our digital lifestyle,” he added. “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.”