As many as a quarter of UK consumers have had online accounts compromised or online data stolen on at least one occasion with Hotmail (now and Facebook being the most commonly cited websites, a survey for authentication firm CertiVox has suggested.

Based on a random sampling of just over 2,000 British consumers, the exact percentage was that 19 percent had experienced one hack and 5 percent two or three. From these, Hotmail was mentioned as the offending service by 25 percent, with Facebook on 21 percent with Yahoo on 11 percent.  

One has to be careful about interpreting these numbers because Hotmail and Facebook are hugely popular services and the high numbers mentioning them in relation to attacks could simply be a feature of this rather than any inherent vulnerability.

Equally, the well-established Gmail and Twitter services were only mentioned by 4 percent of those that had been hacked. The number mentioning online banking was 3 percent, PayPal 6 percent, and eBay 4 percent.

Either way, the survey suggests that account compromises have been experienced at some point by a sizable minority of Internet users.

A quarter said they would close their accounts if they discovered a compromise with a further 37 percent being content to reset an account after a hack in order to carry on as before.

“It is clear from the research that services which do not secure their users’ data adequately are likely to start seeing users move away. This should act as a prompt to businesses everywhere to consider their security more carefully than ever before,” said CertiVox CEO, Brian Spector.

The research showed that consumers were having doubts about conventional password security, he said. The percentage stating they had faith in this type of access was in fact 60 percent with a surprisingly low 26 percent expressing a worry that passwords might not be secure.

“Many consumers are wary and believe that the username and password authentication system is not secure enough to protect their data. When you consider this coupled with the fact that the services identified as being hacked the most are some of the biggest names in technology with hundreds of millions, it is amazing that there hasn’t been a whole-scale move away from usernames and passwords,” argued Spector.

The usual argument against multi-factor authentication has been that consumers find its burdensome and offputting, something not borne out by the poll; only 6 percent expressed negative views at the idea of using extra authentication security.

The firm, which sells multi-factor authentication technology, was coincidentally recently mentioned by SVC2UK as one of 100 UK firms most likely to reach a turnover of £100 million within five years.