IT Security Firm: Fear Students

College kids today are into rampant immoral hacking, according to a new survey of U.K. students. What can be done?

Cambridge University


For months, a network security company called Tufin Technologies has been offering sensational surveys about the digital double lives of young people. An April survey by Tufin, (“carried out by independent ‘man-on-the-street’ researchers” on its behalf) found that almost half of 1,000 New York teenagers questioned thought hacking was “cool,” and about one in six had tried it themselves. An identical survey Tufin conducted in London at the time was even grimmer: Fully a quarter of London teenagers had tried out hacking. And now, just yesterday, Tufin moved beyond teenagers and released a survey focusing on the hacking lives of U.K. college and university students.

The findings? Again grim. According to the UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers, which supported the study, 23% of “uni” students have hacked into IT systems. And 32% thought hacking was “cool.” Also, 28% considered it to be easy. The hackers offered a variety of motivations for their behavior: curiosity, fun, while “an entrepreneurial 15% revealed that they hacked to make money.”

What was the takeaway from all this, according to Tufin and the cops? With all this hacking talent around, Shaul Efraim of Tufin ostensibly sees an opportunity to rescue these script kiddies from a life of crime, replacing their black hats with white ones. “It’s imperative that we begin to educate this generation about the good, the bad and the ugly side of the Internet,” he said, “and channel these skills appropriately and legally. Looking at these findings, from an IT security perspective, it would be good to see these talented individuals pursue a career in the security sector to ensure all organizations benefit from their obvious ability to strengthen security systems.” In other words, teach your children well, says Tufin, in warm-hearted PSA mode.

And more importantly, watch your back–since it might be your own college-age kid, seemingly so innocent, who could try to hack into your company’s server. Tufin Technologies, whose stuntlike survey is also an occasion to remind the world that it is “the leading provider of Security Lifecycle Management solutions,” might have a suggestion of a company that could help.

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.