There was a time, not long ago, that identity thieves would focus almost solely on stealing social security numbers and credit card information, such as in the recent Neiman Marcus case. It’s reported that the luxury retailer suffered a hack on its computer systems and the breach involved the details of approximately 1.1 million credit and debit cards. The monitoring of this information was usually enough in order to maintain a relatively secure identity.

Here we are in 2015, and expectations are that identity thieves will now be intent on stealing personal details from social networking accounts as well as a variety of other accounts that store valuable information. Furthermore, marketplaces for stolen data will become more sophisticated, and there’s an expected increase of services on offer through huge networks of malware-controlled computers.

Mobile and Social Attacks

Identity thieves are upping their game by using social networks. They go after online information, of which there is a wealth, in order to socially engineer a more convincing phishing endeavor, which is then used to tempt people into proffering valuable identity information or to use malware in an attempt to gain control of a computer. Cyber criminals have an increasing interest in accounts and credentials with special permissions. For example, with stolen details to gain access to Google Play’s Developer Console, they can use this to construct and then publish mobile apps with malware. This in turn takes control of the mobile device of anyone who downloads that particular app.

Stolen Data on More Sophisticated Marketplaces

Markets for stolen credentials are now more commercial. Vast numbers of identity credentials are divided and then packaged according to demographic information. The markets are being fueled by digital currencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin, which allows transactions to take place quickly and efficiently, and entirely anonymously.

Malware Services

We are in a day and age where cyber criminals are not merely intent on selling on identity information. As more computers fall under the control of malware, the capacity for using these compromised networks expands and crosses over into previously unchartered territories. The increase in malware-based services is more than likely to continue to expand during 2014. As an example, more utilization will be made of compromised devices to host a variety of illegal websites, including those used for child pornography.

Taking all the new threats of identity theft into consideration, the first step to negation is more awareness. That in turn will lead to a growing number of individuals paying far closer attention to the safety of their online identities. Furthermore, businesses involved with the provision of personal computer security services will inevitably administer a host of new solutions which will enable people to take more control over the security of their online information.

Nevertheless, there’s no escaping the fact that computer security companies are always playing a game of catch-up as the cyber criminals continue to move rapidly forward in their efforts to grab hold of their piece of the vast internet pie using a variety of cunningly devious methods.

How to Avoid Identity Theft

The best way is to keep an eye on your credit card bills and your credit report. These are the places that will give you the first red flags of identity theft. If there are weird charges on your credit card, call your credit card company ASAP to report them. If there are new accounts being opened on your credit report, call the issuers of those new accounts to quickly report fraud. If you don’t think you have the time to monitor everything, you can sign up for an identity theft protection service that will alert you if there is any unusual activity on your credit accounts or credit report. Here’s a good list of identity theft services.