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Password-stealing keyloggers skyrocket

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Hackers are on target to release more than 6,000 keystroke loggers in 2005, a 65 per cent increase from the 3,753 keyloggers released last year, according to security intelligence outfit iDefense.

Five years ago iDefense (which was recently acquired by net infrastructure firm VeriSign) recorded only 300 such programs, demonstrating a huge growth in a strain of malware that has become a favourite with cybercriminals as a preferred tool to plunder online banking accounts.

A keylogger is a form of malware program that install itself surreptitiously, records keystrokes made on the infected computer and sends this data to hackers. Once a keylogging program is activated, it provides fraudsters with any strings of text a person might enter online, placing personal data and online account information at risk. Largely distributed by organised cyber theft groups, keyloggers are typically packaged with phishing emails or spyware programs.

Using account information to impersonate victims, hackers run up charges averaging $3,968 per victim, according to a recent survey by US insurance firm Nationwide Mutual. Sixteen percent of victims were required to pay for at least some of this fraud, and spent an average of 81 hours to resolve their cases, the Nationwide Mutual survey reports. ®

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