Experian flags growth of illegal trade in online details


More pieces of personal information were illegally traded online during the first six months of 2012 than during the whole of last year, according to credit experts Experian.

The company's latest quarterly figures show that 19.7 million pieces of information were traded online by internet fraudsters in the six months from January 2012.

In contrast, during the whole of 2011, a total of 19.04 million records were sold illegally online.

The publication of the figures coincides with the start of National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, which the company has also marked by releasing the results of its Life In A Box experiment.

The initiative was designed to shed light on people's online security habits by placing a volunteer in a shop front for a week with nothing more than a laptop.

The volunteer, Steve, was set a number of online challenges to test the strength of the password and username combinations he used and how easy it was to uncover personal information about him online.

The findings revealed that Steve used the same password across multiple accounts, used an outdated web browser and failed to check that the websites he accessed were secure before buying goods from them.

Furthermore, the company also enlisted the help of a third party security consultant to test how far data could spread online if it fell into the wrong hands.

The consultant tested this by setting up eight fake email accounts, all of which were taken over within five hours, mainly by fraudsters from South Africa, Albania and a whole host of other countries.

The experience also revealed that password related emails were typically the first to be viewed by fraudsters, followed by messages exchanged between friends and family.

Peter Turner, UK and Ireland managing director of Experian Consumer Services, said the findings show how complacent people have become with online security.

"Although fourteen per cent of Britons admit to being concerned about the risk of online ID theft, many more 43 per cent have no such worries," he added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.