Illegal Trade in Personal Information at All-time High

Crowd of people crossing road shoppingThe volume of illegally traded information online is at an all-time high, with more than 110m pieces of data bought and sold by criminals so far in 2014.

The figures, which come from a study commissioned by Experian, show a 40 per cent increase from last year alone, and a 300 per cent growth on 2012 figures. Login credentials, made up of username and password combinations, make up the vast majority of illegally traded data, almost 97 per cent.

Login credentials give identity fraudsters potential access to huge amounts of information, with compromised email account containing personal information, contact lists of new targets and the potential to access a wealth of other accounts. The average Briton now has 19 different online accounts, with 25-34 year olds averaging 28 accounts.

However, findings suggest that Britain is becoming increasingly conscious of online security, with the average number of accounts dropping 27 per cent since 2012. People are also closing down inactive accounts more frequently, with only 18 per cent having an inactive social media account left open, and only 10 per cent with inactive email accounts, down from 18 per cent in 2012.

Online password behaviour is still poor though, with 10 per cent of Britons using an average of just seven different passwords across their online presence, and 5 per cent using the same log in details across all their accounts. In addition, 10 per cent never change their passwords.

“These results are startling and combined with the knowledge that we have also seen a 37 per cent 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 Peter Turner, managing director with Experian consumer services, UK & Ireland. “Given the number of online services that we all use each and every day, it is so important that we are all vigilant in protecting our information online.”