Computer hackers do not fear the law, are seldom caught and rarely prosecuted, according to a new survey released by IT supplier Computacenter.

The survey of 126 hackers revealed that 79 per cent of hackers believe tougher legislation would not be a significant deterrent and 62 per cent said more prosecutions would not stop them trying to gain unauthorised access to IT systems.

Martin Hellawell, head of marketing at Computacenter, said: "One of the principal messages from the survey is that companies will be left to fend for themselves when it comes to computer security. They cannot rely on changes in the law to protect them from unauthorised access, sabotage and fraud."

As many as 55 per cent of hackers believe the Internet provides a greater opportunity to break into company systems. Some commented that the Net even provided them with free specialist hacking software to help them do so.

The survey revealed that the majority of hackers work in the IT industry and are typically employed as system administrators or consultants. Nearly half of all hackers said they targeted IT companies in the UK.