The security of millions of Britons may have been compromised, with their identities being offered for sale by cybercriminals, a news report said on Saturday.
Highly sensitive financial information, including credit card details, bank account numbers, telephone numbers and even PINs of more than four million Britons are available to the highest bidder on the internet, The Times reported.
It said at least a quarter of a million British bank and credit card accounts have been hacked into by cybercriminals, exposing consumers to huge financial losses.
The intercepted Lucid Intelligence database, which has been collated into a single database, contains the records of four million Britons, and 40 million people worldwide, mostly Americans. Security experts described the database as the largest of its kind in the world, the report said.
It said that most of the personal details have been obtained due to "phishing" — a process whereby people are fooled into handing over their key details, such as user names, passwords and credit card details.
Usually the unsuspecting victims provide the details by e-mail to people posing as reputable sources such as banks or online stores. Other data has been stolen after criminals infect a person’s personal computer with viruses and then raid it for information.
Once the details are gathered, it is offered to the highest bidder on online forums or hacking websites. Among the places vulnerable to security breaches are banks, financial institutions including the Bank of England and Companies House and multinational defence companies, the report said.