Online fraud worth billions of pounds

Credit card and other financial data sold illegally online could lead to fraud worth billions of pounds each year, according to a new study.

The research by Symantec, which analysed underground economy servers for a year, showed stolen data sitting on "underground" servers had an advertised selling price worth a total 184 million.

Credit card data was the most popular, at about 31 per cent of the total. Although they sell for anywhere between 7p and 17 per card account, the average credit card limit was 2,650 meaning the total worth of potential fraud was 3.5 billion.

Financial accounts made up a fifth of the underground market, Symantec said. Such bank account data goes for anywhere between 6.50 and 650, the security firm claimed, but the average hacked account is worth 26,700 in total, over 1 billion.

The security firm said such financial information was a popular target for hackers because they can be cashed out using online banking services to untraceable places within as little as 15 minutes.

Symantec said the hackers were well-organised, but varied between individuals to "sophisticated" groups which advertised to gain buyers. The most active individual was advertising goods worth 4.2 billion.

The bulk of the servers some 45 per cent were hosted in North America, followed by Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at 38 per cent. Asia-Pacific areas claimed 12 per cent, while Latin America was home to just five per cent.