What price identity? £80 to you, guvnor

17 November 2008

Imagine a farmer's market, but one where it's always night-time. You won't find it on a map, no streets will lead you here. There's loud bassy music shaking the lungs out your chest. You're in the pitch-dark, you're robbed of your senses and whispering phishmongers with long, pointy gutting knives are asking if you'd like to buy their wares. It's a dark, dangerous place.

What we've cleverly done is described an online blackmarket, in a manner that bears no resemblance to its real-but-virtual equivalent. However, if there were such a physical manifestation and you happened to be involved in organised cybercrime, then you'd be in for a treat because the Christmas sales have already started; kits containing an individual's bank account details, passport information and credit card numbers are being sold to thieves there for as little as £80.

GetSafeOnline.org,an online safety group founded by - amongst others - the Government and Microsoft, is highlighting data privacy all week to help individuals foil online scammers. Six out of 10 people manage their finances online these days, so data protection is more critical than ever and the reason why scary numbers like the one above are being bandied about in the news. Here's another: a clued-up ID fraudster could clear around £14,500 from the average UK worker before moving on to the next victim. Yikes.

The advice on offer by the organisation is straight-forward enough - update virus software and firewalls, use encrption on your wireless network, update your browsers, don't entertain emails from relatives of former Nigerian ministers, and so on. It's all stuff you should be already doing, but there's advice for small businesses too and more besides.

What do you think?

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