The volume of stolen data traded by criminals reached 110 million this year, overwhelmingly online credentials such as user names and passwords, credit agency Experian has estimated using its own web monitoring system.
At first this doesn’t sound like a large amount of data considering that many of the large data breaches publicised in the last year could have easily matched that amount of data – Adobe alone had 152 million records compromised for example.
However, the global assessment by an independent security white hat measured data that had been traded and not simply stolen, from which one might infer that traded data is the stuff worth selling.
In 2012, Experian found that this amounted to 27.5 million pieces of data, which by 2013 had increased to almost 80 million before increasing by another 40 percent to 110 million during 2014 (so far).
Of this, nearly 97 percent of the data related to online credentials, with the rest made up of credit and debit card numbers
In Experian’s interpretation, credentials are potentially more valuable because they allow the possibility of compromising several accounts (including bank accounts) whereas a card number is tied to one account over a short window of opportunity.
Quoting Ponemon Institute numbers, the traded value of a credit card was now 62 pence ($1) whereas working online accounts fetched £3.50 ($5.60), Experian said.
“These results are startling and combined with the knowledge that we have also seen a 37 percent increase in those receiving help from the Experian Victims of Fraud team in the last year, it is clear that identity theft and resulting fraud is a real concern,” said Experian Consumer Services managing director for the UK and Ireland, Peter Turner.
Separate UK-based research by the firm of 2,000 people found that the average Briton now has 19 online accounts, with people becoming more reticent about signing up for new ones in the last two years. The number of inactive accounts was falling with some even closing unused accounts down.
The research also claimed that an implausibly-low 10 percent never changed their passwords - in fact anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority probably re-use the same credentials over and over on multiple sites.
Experian, of course, sells services to monitor credit reports as a way of detecting fraudulent activity and identity theft.
Earlier this year, a US subsidiary of Experian was investigated for an apparent data breach after a Vietnamese man was accused of accessing up to 200 million records.
The firm released the latest data as part of Get Safe Online week which runs until 26 October.