FT : I Am You & What I See Is Me

Monday, March 19, 2007

Okay, that’s not the actual title of the Financial Times article but a Pink Floyd line (“Echoes” on Meddle – 1971).  Excerpts from “Internet offers new ID for $14” –

Anyone looking for a new identity – a bank account, credit card, government identification number and date of birth – need look no further than the internet where one can be bought for as little as $14 (£7, €11).  A US credit card costs just $1, a UK credit card about $2 and access to someone else’s online bank account can be had for $300, according to the latest security report from Symantec, the US internet security company.  The report sheds light on the thriving underground economy where stolen bank account and identity details are traded in internet chat rooms.  A Symantec team monitored internet chats over the past six months to compile a rough price list.  Dean Turner, senior researcher on the project, said there were “hundreds if not thousands” of internet chat sites where trades could be made.  “We were looking at the tip of the iceberg.  The problem is likely to be much worse than we can portray.”  Various hacking tools are bought and sold on the chat sites.  Spammers can pick up a list of 29,000 e-mail addresses for $5.  Details of a computer that has been hacked into and can be controlled externally by a hacker can be bought for between $6 and $20.  Some of the pricing uncovered by Symantec was surprising.  Credit card details sold for just a few dollars while a PayPal account could cost up to $500.  A Skype account cost $12 and even an account for the World of Warcraft online role-playing game could be sold for $10. 

Mr Turner said the prices reflected how much use criminals were likely to get away with: financial institutions policed credit cards so tightly that a stolen card number was usable for a only few days or even hours.  An online game would not be subject to the same scrutiny.  Role-playing games had a thriving economy of their own, where characters and their equipment were traded for real money.  Hackers had started to target the sites, stealing passwords and selling virtual assets.  Theft of game passwords was rife in Asia, where online games were highly popular, he said.  The Symantec report, to be published today, shows another rise in the stealing of confidential information.  Attempts at information theft account for 45% of the most serious internet attacks examined by Symantec, up from 23% six months ago.

Reference : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/8e60609e-d578-11db-a5c6-000b5df10621.html

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