One in five teenagers are able to used advanced internet-distributed hacking tools, says Panda Security.

Research by the security firm revealed that casual hacking is as much a part of teen life as downloading music to an iPod.

Two thirds of those surveyed revealed they had succeeded in hacking instant messaging or social network accounts of people known to them, with 20 percent admitting to having published embarrassing photographs or videos of acquaintances on the internet.

Apart from mischief-making and competition with their peer group, the main motivation for trying out hacking appears to be curiosity, with 86 percent citing that as the point from which their involvement started.

"We should encourage young people to use the internet as a channel for personal development, teaching them to use it in a healthy and responsible fashion," said technical director of PandaLabs (the research wing of Panda Security), Luis Corrons.

"It is important to help them avoid participating in dubious activities which are made all the easier thanks to the anonymity afforded by the web."

"Those who are drawn into hacking out of curiosity may very likely end-up discovering the financial potential of this activity, and become the next generation of cybercriminals," suggested Corrons.