According to a survey by software group VeriSign, 57% of us think that businesses are not doing enough to protect our personal information online. And the stakes are high: now we’re conducting so much of our business over the internet, the research found that the average UK punter has more than £10,000 stashed away in banking, gaming and shopping accounts that could be a target for cyber criminals.
In some ways we’ve only got ourselves to blame. These days we think nothing of handing over a wealth of personal information to banking, social networking and retail sites. We’ve all heard of phishing, email scams that use fake emails to obtain confidential information fraudently. But VeriSign has also identified a new danger that it’s dubbed ‘phoraging’, where the scammers use information that we’ve published online to guess passwords and trick their way into our accounts.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that 78% of us are apparently worried about identify theft. In fact, nearly half of those surveyed said they’d had first- or second-hand experience of it (and if you’re thinking that this number sounds high, cast your mind back to the back end of last year when the research took place – it was just after the government managed to lose all those data CDs, just to prove exactly how secure most data storage really is).
We are getting slightly more savvy about our online security. Apparently nearly 70% of us now look out for the little padlock at the bottom of the screen that supposedly signifies a secure site – though according to VeriSign, some of the phishing sites just buy the relevant certificate off an unscrupulous provider and then sit back in their underground lairs with an evil cackle. So don’t go pinning your hopes on a padlock.
Naturally, VeriSign has its own alternative – the so-called Extended Validation scheme which turns your address bar green (on the newer browsers) when sites are secure. And there are plenty of others around, even for smaller companies: for instance software company Centennial has just launched a new small business edition of its DeviceWall program, which is intended to make this kind of security available to any company with data to protect.
Of course, online security software specialists are bound to talk up threats to online security. But you can guarantee one thing – with £400bn in the offing, there's bound to be some pallid techno-geek somewhere plotting to hack into your accounts. And if it’s your business that loses this data, it might take a long time before your customers trust you again...