Q&A: Tom Ilube, head of Garlik

The chief executive of identity management provider Garlik discusses how to keep yourself and your information safe online.

Does the size of your online identity relate to your risk of identity theft or cybercrime?

We asked a firm of criminologists to look at how online criminals operate. The message is that they look for information on different sites, and look for very specific bits of information. There are very precise, hard data items that they use to build a social context around. In about 30 per cent of cases, if you pick someone off the street you would be able to find enough information about them online to steal their identities. A lot of consumers don't realise that the registers of births, marriages and deaths are online, for example.

There are five or six specific pieces of information a fraudster is interested in: your full name, your mother's maiden name, your exact date of birth, your full address, maybe where you went to school, and if you have your signature out there, a fraudster can copy it.

The fraudster is not necessarily looking for high profile people. Why go after Gordon Brown's identity? Fraudsters are not fools. They just comb the net: something that would have taken them two to three weeks before now takes two to three hours online.

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There are occasional high profile frauds it's said that even Bill Gates has been had but low-level large scale fraud is trawling for people with too much information online. But we are at quite an early stage of this new type of cybercrime.

At Egg, the first attacks we saw were amateur and ad hoc, but became more systematic and organised. We are now seeing the same behaviour at the consumer end of cybercrime, so you do need to get people more engaged in their identities.

Should we do more to protect ourselves?

The police can't stop identity theft. To help themselves, consumers need to make themselves harder targets. I have taken people through all the information I have found about them on social networking sites. And in a few weeks the information is still there!

If a bank asks you for a password they are actually asking you for a word you can remember. You don't need to give them the real answer to questions such as your mother's maiden name.

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