Symantec: Booming Underground Economy Worth Over $5 Billion

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While fears of a recession are the on the minds of those looking to make an honest living, unscrupulous hackers are thriving in an underground economy worth billions of dollars. The revelation comes as part of new report released today by Symantec titled "Report on the Underground Economy."

The eye-opening report reflects activity on underground economy servers observed by Symantec between July 1st, 2007 and June 30th, 2008. During that time, Symantec claims to have witnessed 44,752 unique samples of sensitive information publicly posted on various servers. These samples, which represent 10 percent of the total distinct messages, serves as proof that the seller has the information they claim to have, as well as to show potential buyers the quality of goods they can expect to receive.

According to Symantec, credit card information reigns supreme and accounts for nearly a third of the total. Credit cards were seen selling for as little as $.10 to $25 per card, despite an average advertised limit of $4,000. When added up, Symantec calculated the total potential worth to be in the neighborhood of $5.3 billion.

But that number doesn't take into account stolen financial accounts, which makes up 20 percent of the total. Stolen bank accounts were seen seling for between $10 and $1,000 with the average balance hovering at nearly $40,000. By Symantec's math, that puts the total worth at $1.7 billion, or around $7 billion for credit cards and bank accounts combined.

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