Wednesday, May 10, 2006

News of widespread high-tech crime has become trite and may lead to consumer apathy

According to an identity theft and personal security expert, the press coverage of identity theft, phishing scams, and other types of fraud may be reaching the saturation point. Robert Siciliano, president of, said the problem now runs the risk of becoming mere background noise to a public that feels helpless and may have a short attention span.

How are we going to publicize the threat of identity theft and other high-tech crimes in a way that leads to improvement, not apathy? The only way consumers will get effective tools to combat high-tech crime is if the threat remains a primary concern for consumers. Big companies answer to their customers, investors, and nobody else.

=>On March 22, The Boston Globe and others reported the loss of a laptop computer from Fidelity Investments, the Boston, Mass.–based financial firm. The computer, according to the article, held personal data on 196,000 retirement account customers.

=> reported on March 24 reported on an apparent software glitch that caused the State of California to inadvertently send “64,000 tax forms containing Social Security numbers and income information to the wrong addresses.”

=>A March 24 report that aired on KSBI-TV 52 in Oklahoma detailed a social engineering scam involving phone callers who have stolen a number of unsuspecting citizens’ identities. Accusing the victims of missing jury duty, the scammers have managed to compel those they call to reveal identifying data.

=>Numerous news media outlets have reported that the Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers to beware phishers whose e-mails masquerade as IRS communication and ask for financial information.

A lot of people just want this problem to go away. Those who might have to take the blame for a general lack of security might in fact choose, at this point, to let news of identity theft and similar crimes saturate the news media.

The notion of an intractable high-tech crime problem might compel consumers to tune out. The voices for change would retreat, and the pressure to fix things would subside. After all, it costs money to beef up security.


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