A survey has found that people are nearly as likely to be web criminals as to be victims of them, with a large amount of dishonesty coming from the respondents themselves.

The behavioural and psychological impacts of online life outlined in a report from the security firm Norton, said more than a quarter of people online have lied about their name and more than one in five has done something online they regret.

The report suggests that two-thirds of web users have been hit by cyber crime, with the costs and time to resolve the crime varying widely around the world.

Seventeen percent of respondents to Norton’s survey had lied online about their age or where they live, while nine percent lied about their financial or relationship status, all more than the fraction that lied about their appearance. The study, “Norton Cyber crime Report: The Human Impact”, reveals telling details not only about the proportion of web users struck by cyber crime, but the disparity among countries as to the costs to each cyber crime victim.

More telling perhaps are the attitudes of survey respondents with regard to the ethics of their own behaviour. Many felt it was “legal” to download a music track, album, or film without paying (17, 14 and 15 percent respectively), and 17 percent view plagiarism as an acceptable practice.

Nearly a third had e-mailed or posted pictures of someone else without permission, and a quarter had secretly viewed someone else’s browsing history.

Orla Cox, a security operations manager for Symantec, said that she was unsurprised about the survey’s findings on the respondents’ honesty.

“A lot of people, while they want to get information about other people on the web, they themselves would like to remain somewhat anonymous, to hide some of their own information so as to be not too easily identifiable on the web,” the BBC quoted her as saying.

“I don’t think it’s always a bad thing but certainly people are trying to create a whole different identity for themselves for nefarious purposes,” she added.

More In: Internet | Technology