Britain: a nation of cyber snoopers

06/08/2003 Written by John Leyden - The Register

Britain is fast becom­ing a nation of cyber snoop­ers, accord­ing to a study out today.

The NOP sur­vey, com­mis­sioned by Inter­net secu­rity firm Syman­tec, reveals that many of us would, given the oppor­tu­nity, read mes­sages or files on other people’s com­put­ers and mobile phones.

Men are the worst cul­prits, with just over a quar­ter admit­ting they would look at col­leagues’ salaries on their boss’s com­puter if they had the oppor­tu­nity. Only 13 per cent of women would spy on col­leagues’ pay.

A quar­ter of men would check out cor­po­rate plans and finan­cial infor­ma­tion but only 10 per cent of women quizzed in the sur­vey were will­ing to take this risk.

The fig­ures are lower when it comes to read­ing per­sonal infor­ma­tion. Four­teen per cent of men and just ten per cent of women admit­ting they would spy on their bosses’ per­sonal data, such as email or elec­tronic diary plan­ners.

Moral-​free zone

When it comes to snoop­ing on part­ners at home, it’s a dif­fer­ent story. Women — instead of men — are the worst cul­prits.

Nearly half (40 per cent) of all women inter­viewed said they would check their partner’s mails, while a stag­ger­ing 60 per cent were pre­pared to look at sus­pi­cious text mes­sages if they thought they were being cheated on.

Men, it seems, are less inclined to snoop on their spouses, with just a quar­ter admit­ting that they would check emails and around a third text mes­sages to catch out stray­ing part­ners. How­ever more than one in three (35 per cent) admit­ted that they would read a doc­u­ment on a part­ner or friend’s com­puter if they thought they wouldn’t get caught.

The sur­vey comes from tele­phone inter­views with 257 nation­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive British adults aged between 21 to 35 con­ducted in June 2002.

Top Tips

Syman­tec has devised some top tips for pro­tect­ing con­fi­den­tial and per­sonal infor­ma­tion:

1. Password-​protect con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments and emails, whether saved on your com­puter at work or at home.

2. PIN-​protect your mobile phone to pre­vent any­one check­ing your text mes­sages or address book.

3. Keep pass­words secret (don’t write them on Post-​it notes and stick them to your screen!) and change them reg­u­larly. If you have trou­ble remem­ber­ing all of your dif­fer­ent pass­words, try using a pass­word man­age­ment prod­uct.

4. Avoid pass­words that can be guessed eas­ily, like your part­ner or pet’s name. Try and use mem­o­rable com­bi­na­tions of let­ters and num­bers.

5. Use a screen-​saver on your PC and password-​protect it. To do this, if you run Win­dows, use the Con­trol Panel, click on Dis­play and then the Screen Saver tab and Pass­word Pro­tect.

6. When you go to lunch or into a meet­ing, ‘lock down’ your com­puter.

7. Remem­ber to pro­tect your­self from poten­tial hack­ers view­ing your Inter­net activ­ity by installing a firewall.


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