Information Theft Market Booming

by CXOtoday Staff    Dec 01, 2008

Cybercriminals are thriving on stolen information relating to credit cards and bank accounts, which is being sold at a premium in the underground economy.

The report that aired these findings by Symantec is based on observations of underground economy servers between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008.

“Today’s cybercriminals are thriving off on information they are gathering without permission from consumers and businesses,” said Shantanu Ghosh, vice president, India Product Operations, Symantec. “As these individuals and groups continue to devise new tools and techniques to defraud legitimate users around the globe, protection and mitigation against such attacks must become an international priority.”

The potential value of total advertised goods observed was more than $276 million for the reporting period. This value was determined using the advertised prices of the goods and services and measured how much advertisers would make if they liquidated their inventory.

Credit card information was the most advertised category of goods and services on the underground economy, accounting for 31 percent of the total. While stolen credit card numbers sell for as little as $0.10 to $25 per card, the average advertised stolen credit card limit observed was more than $4,000. The potential worth of all credit cards advertised during the reporting period was $5.3 billion.

The popularity of credit card information is likely due to the many ways this information can be obtained and used for fraud; credit cards are easy to use for online shopping and it’s often difficult for merchants or credit providers to identify and address fraudulent transactions before fraudsters complete these transactions and receive their goods. Also, credit card information is often sold to fraudsters in bulk, with discounts or free numbers provided with larger purchases.

The second most common category of goods and services advertised was financial accounts at 20 percent of the total. While stolen bank account information sells for between $10 and $1,000, the average advertised stolen bank account balance is nearly $40,000. Calculating the average advertised balance of a bank account together with the average price for stolen bank account numbers, the worth of the bank accounts advertised during this reporting period was $1.7 billion.

The popularity of financial account information is likely due to its potential for high payouts and the speed at which payouts can be made. In one case, financial accounts were cashed out online to untraceable locations in less than 15 minutes.