Despite years of security improvements and tougher, more coordinated law enforcement efforts, credit card and bank account numbers are boldly hawked on the Internet, reports the New York Times. The valuable information is used for online purchases, counterfeit card manufacture, or more elaborate identity-theft schemes. The online trading of the information is highly structured. There are buyers and sellers, intermediaries and even service industries. The players come from all over the world, but most of the Web sites where they meet are run from computer servers in the former Soviet Union, making them difficult to police.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that roughly 10 million Americans have their personal information pilfered and misused in some way or another every year, costing consumers $5 billion and businesses $48 billion annually. “It’s a cancer. It’s not going to kill you now, but slowly, over time,” said Jim Melnick, a former Russian affairs analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now the director of threat development at iDefense, a company in Reston, Va., that tracks cybercrime.