How $50 worth of stolen data triggers million dollar damages

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•Cybercrime related damages to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021

By Emmanuel Elebeke

The irony of data loss in a fast-rising digital world is so pathetic to analyse. The cybercriminal steals and gets away because owners of the stolen data are not only unaware but also do not know the value of the data they lost.

The criminal lures the buyer with lower prices because he has the data in volumes. The buyer gets the information he craves and unleashes evil. The result is that loser of the data could be hounded for a crime he did not commit, could lose money and reputation and all that, for a data that was not sold more than $50.

Data theft statistics

In 2016, three billion Yahoo accounts were hacked in one of the biggest breaches of all time. The same year, Uber reported that hackers stole the information of over 57 million riders and drivers.

In 2017, 412 million user accounts were stolen from Friendfinder’s sites and according to Cybersecurity Ventures, damages related to cybercrime is projected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021.

Cybersecurity issues are becoming a day-to-day struggle not only for individual internet users but for businesses. Trends show a huge increase in hacked and breached data from sources that are increasingly common in the workplace, like mobile and IoT devices.

Additionally,  recent research  suggests that just as many people have poor data protection habits,  most companies too, have unprotected data and poor cybersecurity practices in place, making them vulnerable to data thieves.

The report found that the average cost of a data breach in South Africa is R36.5 million, increasing from R32 million in the 2017 report

A new study from Kaspersky Lab has also revealed that while our identity may not be worth a lot in terms of dollars, it is a significant asset to criminals in other ways.

The research uncovered an appetite among cybercriminals for data stolen from popular services, including social media accounts and remote access to gaming websites.

User confusion about the worth of their data, makes it all too easy for thieves to steal data and commit crime. It also results in a haphazard security approach which makes it almost impossible to catch the thieves

The report said that data stolen due to people’s negligence on security may have limited resale value but can be put to many uses which can cause huge problems for an individual victim.

According to the report, while some individual victims may lose money, others may lose reputation, find themselves being chased for debt that somebody else has incurred in their name, or even suspected of a crime that somebody else committed using their identity as a cover.

Where data is mostly stolen from

Kaspersky Lab investigated Dark Web markets to find out how much personal data is worth, and how it is used by criminals.

The company’s researchers found that criminals can sell someone’s complete digital life for less than $50; including data from stolen social media accounts, banking details, remote access to servers or desktops, and even data from popular services like Uber, Netflix, and Spotify, as well as gaming websites, dating apps, and porn websites which might store credit card information.

Meanwhile, researchers found that the price paid for a single hacked account is lower, with most selling for about $1 per account, and with criminals offering up discounts for bulk-buying.

The most common way criminals steal this sort of data in the first place is via spear phishing campaigns or by exploiting a web related security vulnerability in an application’s software.

After a successful attack, the criminal gets password dumps which contain a combination of emails and passwords for the hacked services. And, with many people using the same password for several accounts, attackers might be able to use this information to access accounts on other platforms too.

Interestingly, some criminals selling data even provide their buyers with a lifetime warranty, so if one account stops working, the buyer will receive a new account for free.

Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab, David Jacoby, puts it this way, “It is clear that data hacking is a major threat to us all, and this applies at both an individual and societal level, because stolen data funds many social evils.

How to mitigate data theft

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to prevent it, including using cybersecurity software, and being aware of how much data we are giving away for free, particularly on publicly available social media profiles, or to organisations.”

For him, people can avoid such risks by taking several easy security steps, which should become an integral part of any internet user’s digital life:

To stay safe from phishing, he said every user of cyberspace should always check that the link address and the sender’s email are genuine before clicking anything. A robust security solution will also warn you if you attempt to visit a phishing web page.

To avoid one data leak harming all your digital identities, you should never use the same password for several websites or services. To create strong, hack-proof passwords and remove the struggle of remembering them, use a specific password manager application, such as  Kaspersky Password Manager.

Users are also advised to use services such as  PrivacyAudit.me to find out who has their personal data

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