Phishing, ID theft cause for huge concern

If you ever wondered where spammers got your e-mail details from, eBay may have the answer.

According to Stieler van Eeden, assistant manager, Ernst & Young Information Systems Assurance and Advisory Services (and ex-hacker), spammers and hackers have ready access to millions of e-mail addresses through eBay's online auction site.

While this is enough of a privacy concern, security experts are warning that potential malicious attackers also have access to those addresses, and that they could very easily use them to conduct highly coordinated phishing scams on unsuspecting people.

Phishing and Identity theft are essentially similar, in that they both attempt to gain a user's personal details, including bank card numbers, pins, passwords and identity numbers, which could be used to fraudulently open accounts or purchase goods.

According to Ernst & Young, while check fraud still accounts for a large chunk of the overall financial crime problem (around US$20 billion per year and growing at 25 percent annually), online fraud, valued at around US$5 billion, is growing at a staggering 200 percent to 500 percent, and should overtake other forms of fraud in the very near future.

The problem is that phishing attempts are so well coordinated and professionally executed that many end-users often fall for tricks such as social engineering, believing that everything is legitimate.

Apart from being extra vigilant as an end-user, and being sceptical of absolutely every piece of communication received from an external source, Van Eeden says that an increase in awareness and user education is the best strategy to overcome the problem.

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