UK users risk billions on unsecured websites

Internet users in the UK are risking billions of pounds by sharing personal data on poorly protected websites, according to a YouGov survey.

A figure of 361 billion was said to be at risk, with the average UK consumer worth 10,077 online. This was the total value of an individual person's online accounts, which would include those for banking and shopping.

"It's really staggering to think that we are worth that much," said Jon Kerr, SSL manager of VeriSign, who published the research.

"If businesses are to benefit from online commerce, they need to present themselves to the consumer as a safe and secure site."

UK users were becoming more confident about sharing their personal information. The research said that 65 per cent now shared details with their online bank, 58 per cent with online retailers and 31 per cent comfortable with leaving details on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

However, online details were more at risk of being stolen as UK users were willing to share confidential details which could be used for fraud. This was shown with 75 per cent giving away their date of birth, 70 per cent their home address and 68 per cent their mother's maiden name.

UK internet users' trust was surprising as 79 per cent were worried about identity theft, while nearly half (43 per cent), have experienced identity fraud or knew somebody who had been.

"It's no surprise that online banks and retailers are some of the most popular targets for identity theft since so many personal details are required by users," Kerr said.

"As online transactions increase, we need to acknowledge the importance of both technology and consumer behaviour in protecting personal details and monetary assets online. It's clear that each of us is a target."

The research indicated that internet users relied on brand names as places they knew, although they were often the main targets for identity fraud.

"Consumers need to look for more than just a padlock sign. There are various other different security cues which they should look at on websites," said Kerr