Patterico's Pontifications


Competition Among ID Thieves (Updated)

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 6:46 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Symantec announced the results of a survey that suggests identity thieves are having to work harder for their money because competition has increased:

“Fierce competition among identity thieves has driven the prices for stolen data down to bargain-basement levels, which has forced crooks to adopt mainstream business tactics to lure customers, according to a new report on Internet security threats.
Researchers said they found more evidence during the last six months of the year that Internet fraudsters are adopting mainstream tactics, including hiring teams of hackers to create new viruses and offering volume discounts on stolen data to encourage larger orders.

In some cases, stolen credit card numbers were sold in batches of 500 for a total of $200. That’s 40 cents each, less than half the price observed during the first half of 2007, when they were down to $1 apiece in batches of 100, according to the report.

Full identities — including a functioning credit card number, Social Security number or equivalent and a person’s name, address and date of birth – are going for as little as $100 for 50, or $2 apiece.”

Identity theft is apparently more profitable in Europe than the US:

“Certain identities are more alluring than others, according the report. Stolen identities of citizens of the European Union sell on the high end — for $30 — an average of 50 percent more than U.S. identities.

Researchers said the higher prices reflect the fact that the identities can be used in multiple countries, instead of just one. They added, however, that scarcity of a certain type of identity will drive up its price.”

Symantec released its report at a conference of security professionals this week in San Francisco. It was based on “malicious code gathered from more than 120 million computers running Symantec antivirus software and some 2 million decoy e-mail accounts that collect spam.”

I use Symantec products. I wonder what other information Symantec has gathered.

UPDATE 4/8/2008: For a change, here’s some good news for hackers, but not so good for the rest of us:

“One more tax-season dread: A week before the filing deadline, Treasury watchdogs said Monday that poor controls over IRS computers could allow a disgruntled employee, agency contractor or outside hacker to steal taxpayers’ confidential information.

Indeed, a hacker might even “gain full control of the IRS network,” said a report Monday from the office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.”


4 Responses to “Competition Among ID Thieves (Updated)”

  1. Please remind me again, what vital essential service the IRS performs for the FREE citizens of this Republic?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  2. The fact that identities are selling so cheaply cuts both ways. On one hand, it shows that they’re very easy to come by. On the other hand, it shows that there are either massive numbers of them available already, or that they’re basically useless, and not worth anything.

    In other words, if your identity hasn’t been stolen yet, how much trouble is someone going to take to steal it now, when there are either too many of them on the market, or they aren’t worth anything?

    If my identity is only worth a couple bucks, nobody’s going to spend much time trying to hack my passwords to get it.

    The real question is, what can someone really do with your identity if they “steal” it? How much crime is being committed with these cheap identities? Are they so cheap because they’re basically useless?

    One final note: A survey by Symantic regarding identity theft might be a bit biased in its methods/data presentation. They are, after all, a major computer security software company.

    Phil (0ef625)

  3. Well, that certainly narrows it down Phil. You can either do a lot with them but there are so many of them out there they aren’t worth shit or there aren’t worth shit because you can’t do anything with them.

    Thanks Phil. Incisive analysis as usual.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  4. “Please remind me again, what vital essential service the IRS performs for the FREE citizens of this Republic?”

    Thats a good one.

    stef (c089c0)

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