FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

What's Behind the Rash of Data Thefts?

Nearly every day brings another report of a data compromise at a bank or other institution that handles confidential information. All tolled, nearly 50 million accounts of one type or another have been put at risk of identity theft since the beginning of the year. So what's behind this apparent rise in incidents?

For one, institutions are making data thefts public more so than they used to, whether because of their own practices or because of laws requiring them to do so. Institutions are also facing a new breed of professional hacker motivated by financial gain rather than mere mischief-making. Generally lax security measures also play a role (as is the case of data being stolen from loose tapes and laptops) -- a situation some believe won't be rectified until class-action lawsuits begin showing up in court.

I might add one other element, which is that the news media have, over the past few years, become more aware of IT-related issues, including identity theft. They've stopped treating the Internet as a novelty and realize it's a big part of mainstream, daily life. This, combined with tech-savvy websites and bloggers who make IT info easily accessible, help fuel awareness. And where there's awareness, problems such as security breaches are more likely to make the headlines.

Source: Washington Post