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13 Percent of Brits are 'Casual Hackers'

Look around your office: One of these people could be spying on your computer right now.

Hacking and computer crime are not just the business of shady, anonymous criminals in lawless underground forums; according to new research, 13 percent of the British have admitted to 'casual' hacking: accessing someone else's online account details without their permission.

The British life assistance — a combination of gadget protection and travel insurance — company CPPGroup conducted the research and found that 32 percent of the admitted hackers "dismissed their exploits as something they did 'just for fun,' while 29 percent admitted to hacking in order to snoop on their significant other.Eight percent said they hacked to check up on a colleague at work.

Two percent of casually hacking Brits admitted to doing so for financial gain.

"People may dismiss checking up on their friend or partner's accounts as a bit of fun, but in reality they are hacking," CPP's identity fraud expert, Danny Harrison, said. "Looking at someone's personal information without their knowledge is a serious act and one that could have serious repercussions both personally and professionally."

On the receiving end of the illegal activity, 16 percent of Web users have had their password-protected accounts accessed without their permission, CPP found. Of this group, 24 percent said their personal email account had been breached, and eight percent said a hacker had accessed their work email.

CPP also revealed that 19 percent of people said a hacker had accessed their eBay account, and 10 percent said someone had taken money or a loan out in their name without their knowledge.

The most popular vectors for casual hacking are, not surprisingly, social-networking sites like Facebook, where loads of personally identifiable information is made public, and everyday Web users are subject to a maddening array of sophisticated cybercrimes.

Back to the lawless underground forums: Seventeen percent of people said they are aware of free hacking tutorials on the Web, advising amateur criminals in the best ways to breach popular sites like PayPal and Facebook, as well as how to target iPhones, apps and BlackBerrys.

To reduce your risk of becoming a hacking victim, make sure you change your passwords regularly, and be suspicious of links, attachments and unsolicited emails.

Also be aware that public Wi-Fi can be very insecure and dangerous networks, and you should never conduct sensitive business (online banking, confidential work emails) over an unencrypted public Internet connection.