Digital consumers love a bargain. That’s the truth. It’s no wonder online shopping is booming.

Cost savings, combined with the ease and convenience of purchasing something on the Internet, is largely responsible for the increasing popularity of the online marketplace. Whether we’re finding discounted deals, bidding on an item or enjoying electronic services, the online shopping experience swings heavily in favor of consumers.

While the cyber black market also caters to consumers, it’s a very different type of customer. You won’t find the average online shopper looking for deals on these websites. That’s because the digital underground attracts criminals looking for another type of bargain -- other peoples’ personal and financial credentials -- to defraud individuals and online businesses.

Cybersecurity experts believe that up to 360 million pieces of confidential account information recently stolen from major providers is currently being auctioned off on the black market today. And these numbers may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Black market websites are making a profit at good consumers’ expense. After gaining access to personally identifiable information (PII) via social networking sites and major network hacks, passwords and credit card numbers are made available to thousands of fraudsters around the globe, who can bid for them on auctions or purchase personal details outright from black market sites.

This activity, of course, is all illegal. But it doesn't take away from the fact that the underground economy is booming, with experts estimating activity totaling up to $2 trillion in 2012. The bottom line is this: if private digital information is stored, cyber criminals are doing everything they can to get there hands on it.

All this leaves businesses, employees and consumers accountable for protecting their data. This puts a particularly high burden on Internet-based companies that collect and secure customer information. With people entrusting their private credentials to them, any compromise of this information can result in the their data being sold on the black market. When that happens, the company that allowed their financial credentials to land in the wrong hands will ultimately pay the price.

Online businesses operating today cannot afford such exposure or compromise. That’s why deploying effective fraud-fighting solutions like advanced device reputation technology is so important to more complex enterprises. Too much is at stake not to have a multi-layered defense protecting your confidential information. A data breach in today’s volatile environment can cost a business plenty, including the loyalty of your customer base, recurring and future profits, and your fragile brand reputation.