Coalition to Fight Online Identity Theft

 
 
By Dennis Fisher  |  Posted 2003-09-03
 
 
 
Microsoft Corp., RSA Security Inc., eBay Inc. and several other technology companies and groups have joined together to form a new organization to fight online identity theft.

Known as the Coalition on Online Identity Theft, the nascent group plans to use a four-part strategy to help consumers and businesses counter the growing problem of online identity theft. The announcement of the groups formation comes more than a year after officials at the Information Technology Association of America, a powerful technology trade group, called for such a coalition. The ITAA will serve as the secretariat of the new coalition.

Identity theft, which involves a criminal using available personal information to assume the identity of someone else in order to access bank accounts or make purchases, has been a flourishing industry in the offline world for decades. But the advent of the World Wide Web and e-commerce brought about fundamental changes in the way that consumers handled their credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and other private information.

Anyone who has ever bought anything online has surrendered a good deal of personally identifiable information, which is now sitting in a database somewhere. That data is what identity thieves crave, and theyre not having much trouble getting it. The Federal Trade Commission received about 117,000 complaints about identity theft in 2001. That number jumped to nearly 300,000 last year.

Recently, online scammers have turned to sending realistic-looking e-mails purporting to be from companies such as eBay, its PayPal subsidiary and Citibank. The pleas in the messages vary, but the intent is the same: to have the recipient visit a malicious Web site and enter sensitive information like debit card numbers, PINs or bank account numbers.

To help stem this tide, the new coalition, which also includes Amazon.com Inc., VeriSign Inc., Zone Labs Inc., the Business Software Alliance, Network Associates Inc.s McAfee Security division, Whole Security Inc. and Cyveillance Inc., plans to use public education initiatives, as well as technological and self-help approaches. The coalition also intends to collect non-personally identifiable information about cases of online fraud and to work as closely as possible with the government in its efforts.

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