Hackers selling 1.5 million social networking accounts

Data security

Social networking accounts are a favoured target for cyber criminals, and a report released today has shown the crime is going global.

iDefense, the cyber security intelligence division of VeriSign, has discovered that more than 1.5 million account details are being put up for sale by hackers on just one online forum called "kirllos" as the black market for personal data continues to explode.

"The trend for harvesting information from social networking sites has been around for some time now, however cyber criminals typically limited their attacks to social media sites within their own geography," said Rick Howard, director of intelligence at iDefense.

"However the increasing exploitation of users of popular international platforms is important as it signifies that criminals are becoming more and more internationalised these sites provide a convenient platform for criminals to expand their trade around the globe."

Prices for the data can vary depending on how many contacts the user has on their account, ranging from $25 (16) per 1,000 accounts with 10 contacts or less to $45 for accounts with over 10 online friends.

Even accounts where the user has no contacts are still popular sellers as they can help with the spread of malware through friend finder tools and friend requests.

The data stolen can then enable criminals to commit money scams and data mining as well as start malware or spam campaigns.

Howard warned users of social networking sites to be vigilant with their privacy measures and to immediately report any unusual activity to the website in question.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.