- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO | Getting hacked is like having your computer turn traitor on you, spying on everything you do and shipping your secrets to identity thieves.

Victims don’t see where their stolen data end up. However, sometimes security researchers do, stumbling across stolen-data troves that offer a glimpse of what identity theft looks like from criminals’ perspective.

Researchers from United Kingdom-based security firm Prevx “Once they’re into this system, it might not seem at this point like it’s the biggest data heist ever, but this is how they get into a network. This is their game — they do this every day.”

In other words, criminals start small, then use their first point of attack as a way to jump onto more sensitive computers.

Researchers who discover these stolen-data caches then have to figure out what to do with them. Notifying victims is time-consuming and difficult, and researchers tend to focus on trying to get service providers to deactivate the servers before criminals get to the data on them.

Prevx said it alerted the site’s Internet provider, the FBI and U.K. authorities about the breach it discovered. The company also talked to the affected bank, Doraville, Ga.-based Metro City Bank, a community bank whose Web site lists four locations. Prevx said the bank has removed the infected computer.

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