More than 10% of UK teens say they know someone who has engaged in an illegal cyber activity, a survey has revealed.

More than 10% of UK teens say they know someone who has engaged in an illegal cyber activity, a survey has revealed.The survey was commissioned and published by security firm Kaspersky Lab to mark Safer Internet Day 2016 yesterday- which aims to promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.

The survey also found that just over one third of respondents would be impressed if a friend hacked a bank’s website and replaced the homepage with a cartoon, and one in 10 would be impressed if a friend hacked the air traffic control systems of a local airport.

When asked how they would feel if a friend found their way into a celebrity’s online email account and discovered lots of private pictures, 18% said they would be impressed, and 17% would be impressed if a friend managed to obtain all the names and addresses of people who had bought adult films online.

More than a quarter of respondents said they knew how to hide their IP address, 41% said they knew about malware, 44% knew about phishing, 24% knew about distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, 17% knew about ransomware, and 13% knew about crypto-malware.

Recent research by the National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed the average age of a cyber criminal is now just 17, raising concern that youngsters are increasingly becoming involved in cyber crime, many of them unwittingly.

In the light of this finding, public awareness and understanding of the online behaviour of young people is vital, said David Emm, principal security researcher, Kaspersky Lab.

“It’s frighteningly easy for teenagers to find their way into the dark corners of the internet today as they explore and experiment or take their first steps towards making some easy money online by searching for tools and advice,” he said.

Once lured in, youngsters are vulnerable to exploitation by cyber criminals who use them to distribute and create malicious software or help launder funds from cyber crime, said Emm.

UK based criminals were the second highest originators of cyber crime attacks after the US in the second quarter, according to ThreatMetrix. Rising cyber crime suggests criminal law does not deter criminals and that a better legal solution is required to prevent further rises.

The survey also revealed misguided loyalty among teenagers. When asked what they would do if a friend was doing things online that could be illegal, more than half said they would tell the friend to stop, but would not tell anyone else.

One third said they would not get involved, 22% said they would ask about it but not join in, and only 21% said they would report it to the police.

The NCA recently launched a campaign aimed at preventing young people from becoming involved in cyber crime.

The Safer Internet Day 2016 campaign website provides guidance for parents and teachers on how to recognise signs of cyber criminal involvement and ways of encouraging the positive use of cyber skills.