How much are you worth on the black market?

By Jennifer Kavur, ComputerWorld Canada |  Security, identity theft, security

Ever wondered how much your online identity is worth to a cybercriminal? A new tool from Symantec Corp. will perform the calculation for you.

The Norton Online Risk Calculator, unveiled within a microsite to coincide with the launch of Norton 2010, calculates your net worth on the black market by asking a few questions about your personal Internet use.

It takes a few minutes to answer the questions, after which you get three results: how much your online assets are worth, how much your online identity would sell for on the black market, and your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

The main point isn't to promote software or instill fear, but to spread awareness on cybercrime, said Marian Merritt, Internet security advocate for Symantec.

IT pros can use the consumer-oriented tool to educate employees in their office, as well as advocate Internet security to their family and friends. "IT is in that unique position of bridging both worlds," said Merritt.

It's unlikely the average consumer would read an Internet Security Threat Report, she added, but a simply illustrated example might get the same point across. "It's shocking how little value criminals place on your credit card," she said.

IT pros themselves might also benefit from a refresher on cybercrime. "Sometimes those who think they know the most can be even more at risk than others who admit they don't know much and therefore are very cautious," said Merritt.

Even those who consider themselves experts in IT tend to take shortcuts when it comes to online security because they think they aren't at risk, their information isn't really that valuable or they don't realize how much work it takes to recover a stolen identity, she explained.

IT pros might be familiar with concepts of the underground criminal economy and may even know a self-proclaimed hacker or two, but they may not realize the extent to which cybercrime has grown over the past several years, she said.

Cybercrime is now larger than the international drug trade, Merritt pointed out. Nearly 10 million people have reported identity theft in the U.S. over the last 12 months and one in four households have already been victimized, she said.

Not only is the rate of growth surprising, but how easy it is for criminals with no technical skills to convert themselves into cybercriminal businesses overnight, she said. Build-your-own botnet kits and spam engine systems trade on the black market for about $500, Merritt pointed out.

Cybercrime is well reported in the IT space, but the message doesn't often reach the general public, according to Merritt. "You turn on the news and they are talking about capturing drug dealers going across the border, but they rarely show a hacker in handcuffs," she said.

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