Britain: a nation of cyber snoopers

Sneaky buggers

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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