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Identity profiles are worth far more on the digital underground than credit card details.

Gunter Ollmann, a security researcher in the ISS security division of IBM, discovered that a list of 2,000 credit card details (including CVV2 codes and magstripe data) is worth about the same as 40 standard identities (ie name, address, phone number, social security number, and date of birth).

Complete banking identities - including full contact information, mother's maiden name, bank account number, and account password – can be worth eight times as much as standard identity details, depending on the bank. Although stolen credit card details rapidly go out of date, the same is not true for identities which are, of course, much harder to cancel.

"Identity" itself is now a form of currency, according to Ollmann, who reports that it's more common for identity information to be traded rather than sold.

One growing form of trade involves the login credentials to porn sites. Crooks may pay $250 for a batch of 7,000 logins. The logic of the purchases has little to do with porn sites themselves, but rather that people tend to use the same passwords for a range of different sites.

That also means hackers who break into a low-profile site to gain password credentials can use these identities to mount brute force attacks on more useful sites. Or sell login credentials onto third parties interested in attacking ecommerce or banking sites.

"Given the way new sites are springing up and how many passwords we're all expected to remember, I expect this attack vector to become more popular and more successful. Similarly, I'd expect the proliferation of these underground exchanges to increase and the price per password to fall over time," he writes. ®

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