There are currently 26.7m Americans at risk from identity theft because they are unwittingly transmitting sensitive personal data to international hackers and criminals, a newly published report has claimed.
The study, which was conducted by security firm Aladdin Knowledge Systems, warns that the current epidemic of spyware could cost the U.S. a staggering $133bn in losses this year alone.
Explaining its calculations to arrive at this estimate, the study notes that of the top 2,000 known malware threats currently identified in the wild some 15 per cent incorporate keyloggers that can steal all the information typed on an infected computer.
The report then quotes current figures posted by internetwordstats.com which calculates that there are over 223m internet users in the United States. It then combines this estimate with statistics from the National Cyber Security Alliance, which state that 80 to 90 per cent of desktops are infected with some kind of spyware.
"At 80 per cent, that's 187.4m internet users affected by spyware. With 15 per cent of those transmitting the information needed for identity theft, that's 26.7m people in the U.S. alone transmitting their identities to international hackers and criminals," the study warned.
"Last year, there were approximately 10m cases of identity theft in the U.S., resulting in losses of over $50bn, of which spyware comprised only 5 per cent ($2.5bn). The average identity theft case resulted in $5,000 in damage. If we do not do something to stop the flood of spyware, we could be looking at over $133bn in losses this year due to spyware alone."