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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Snooping goes hi-tech
Nokia mobile phone, BBC
Suspicious partners could be reading your text messages
Britain seems to be turning into a nation of electronic eavesdroppers.

Research by security firm Symantec has shown that some people sneak a look at the text messages and e-mails of their partner if they suspect them of being unfaithful.

They will also scour electronic address books for names they do not recognise or which look suspicious.

Even at work many of those questioned would, given the opportunity, peek at confidential information about friends and colleagues they found on corporate networks.

Peeping people

The net has helped many users check out prospective partners by letting them search online to find out about their past and reputation but some people are taking this cyber-checking much further.

In a survey carried out for security firm Symantec many of those questioned would have no problem with surreptitiously reading the text messages on someone else's phone or their private e-mails if they thought their partner was cheating on them.

Password protect confidential documents and e-mails
Pin protect your mobile phone
Keep passwords to yourself
Change passwords regularly
Use hard to guess passwords
Use a screensaver and password protect it
Lock your computer when at lunch in a meeting or away from your desk
Of those questioned, 40% of women would snoop on a partner's e-mails and 60% would look at text messages.

The survey revealed that men are less likely to snoop, with only 25% saying they would check e-mails and 39% happy to sneak a peek at text messages.

Carrying out this sort of cyber snooping does not take an encyclopaedic knowledge of computers or hours of trial and error. Lazy security practices make it easy to carry out.

A case study prepared for the survey found that many people can get access to the e-mail accounts and mobiles phones of former partners because they change passwords so infrequently.

One cyber snooper questioned for the survey said finding out what a former boyfriend was up to "became quite addictive after a while".

"I still do it from time to time, just to stay updated on what's going on in his life, even though we've both moved on," she said.

At work there were also differences in the trouble people would take to find out information about colleagues.

Given the chance to look at colleagues' salaries on the boss's computer only 27% of men would take the risk compared to 13% of women.

Fewer people would take a risk to look at company plans or financial information. Only 25% of men thought they would chance a look at this type of information compared to 10% of women.

"People are naturally curious and there are individuals out there who will read confidential emails or information if you let them," said Kevin Chapman, a spokesman for Symantec.

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