Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Decrying the State of Data Security

A litany of data breaches filled the month of April. The deluge again typified industry’s seeming inability to solve the problems surrounding information security.

Infamous security breaches such as those at ChoicePoint Inc. and elsewhere happened more than a year ago. Now that we’re well into our second year of ‘The Identity Theft Apocalypse,’ I’m sure consumers are anything but pleased to learn that their personal and financial information is still out there, like loose change on the sidewalk, for the taking. After all, it’s usually identity thieves who are doing the taking.

April’s breaches ran the gamut:

=>According to a report in the April 27 edition of Newsday, the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) lost the personal information (e.g., Social Security numbers, names, addresses, and salary figures) of nearly “everyone who has ever worked for the agency”—about 17,000 people.

=>An April 26 CNET News article reported that scammers had succeeded in stealing the credit card details of 2,000 MasterCard holders. MasterCard, according to the report, said it was able to disallow activity on the accounts before the would-be online thieves could use the cards.

=>Reuters reported on April 26 the theft of a laptop computer containing the personal information of approximately 38,000 members of the health insurer Aetna Inc. Names, addresses, and Social Security numbers were among the information on the stolen computer, although an Aetna spokesperson stressed that no banking or health claim data would be available to the thief.

=>On April 14 reported that more than 40,000 Hawaii residents were at risk for identity theft as the result of tertiary activity surrounding an attorney general investigation. According to officials there, a security breach occurred at a professional copying service tasked with duplicating state employee documents that the attorney general’s office had requested for litigation purposes.

We’ve seen the loss of personal and financial records on nearly 100,000 people this April, and more than half of these went missing during the month’s last week alone. Times it by 52, and you begin to understand why identity theft is a problem requiring urgent attention.


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