More personal data was illegally traded in the first six months of 2012 than the whole of 2011, according to a new study from credit monitoring firm Experian.
The information services company's latest study shows that illegal data trading has nearly quadrupled since 2010. Experian warns that the growing trend should make consumers think twice before inputting personal information online.
According to the study 19.7 million pieces of personal information was illegally traded during the first-half of 2012. That number is up from only 19.04 million during the whole of last year.
Experian found that average web users were not doing enough to protect their sensitive information. A company's study found that three-fifths of web users never log out of websites.
While another 26 percent of users don't check for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certification when making online purchases.
To demonstrate the common mistakes users make while surfing the web Experian convinced one hapless volunteer to sit in a shop window for a week, while surfing the web.
Experian's volunteer was then asked to perform a number of task, during which time he made multiple security blunders. For example, he used the same passwords for multiple accounts and failed to check for SSL certification verification.
To prove how costly security mistakes could be Experian gave the data collected from the volunteer's unseen errors to a hacker and tracked how quickly that information could be used to do harm. Within five hours the volunteer's information was used to hack eight different email accounts.
The volunteer's personal information then spread to hackers in Albania and South Africa.
Experian came up with a variety of safety recommendations to better educate consumers. The firm recommends that consumers use a different password for every web account.
The firm also suggests that web user's double check for SSL certification before inputting personal information.