Gangs of criminals are stealing home computer users’ personal details and selling them on, according to a computer security expert.
The gangs are using new ‘malicious software’ or ‘malware’ to steal passwords, bank details and even National Insurance numbers.
The software steals information by tracking every key pressed and the details are then sold on and used to empty people’s bank accounts or take out loans.
Graham Cluley, a Senior Technology Consultant at anti-virus company Sophos, said many Britons were unaware of the dangers posed by malware.
‘These things can track every key you press. In some cases it can even look at what’s on your screen, it can read your emails and know exactly what you’ve been looking at.
‘The typical way of sending malware is through an email attachment. You click on it and don’t see anything, but in the background, the software has been installed. Another trick is to send an email saying your credit card has been debited for something, The email tells you to click on the attachment for more information, and when you do, the malware is downloaded.’
Mr Cluley said he was aware of 1,998 new examples of malware in the last month, and more were appearing all the time. He warned that if home computer users don’t have properly updated security software, they risk falling victim.
He said: ‘Home computer owners are most at risk, but they don’t always take home computer security seriously. Ideally you should have software which updates itself regularly to protect against this.
‘The problem is so widespread that in some cases we know the bad guys have stolen identities of tens of thousands of people at a time. They could potentially sell individual identities off for just a few pounds, because they have huge databases of them.’
Which Senior Researcher Lisa Barber said: ‘You can keep your personal details safe by not opening any suspicious attachments you receive via email and being suspicious of any messages that are trying to get you to click on a link.
‘If an email does look like it’s from an official organisation, such as your bank, give it a ring to double-check that it’s genuine. Finally, make sure you always have an up-to-date anti-virus program, anti-spyware program and firewall installed on your computer.’