A collection of high-profile organizations including the United States Secret Service and the FBI, along with private companies such as IBM and LexisNexis, have formed a new research center aimed at stopping identity theft.
Dubbed CIMP (Center for Identity Management and Information Protection), the effort will be headquartered at Utica College in Utica, New York, and will also be supported by contributions from the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute, Indiana Universitys Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research and Syracuse Universitys CASE Center.
The group is promising to lay out an aggressive research agenda focused on issues related to identity management, information sharing policies and data protection.
CIMIP will be headed by Dr. Gary R. Gordon, a professor of Economic Crime Management at Utica College who is also credited as a nationally recognized expert in economic crime, including cyber-crime and identity fraud.
Organizers said that the group will specifically work to provide identity management and information protection resources to corporations, law enforcement, government agencies, academic institutions and the public through a planned series of publications as well as its Web site.
CIMIP members also plan to sponsor meetings and symposiums to help participants share their research findings with corporate, government and academic leaders.
The newly-launched group will focus its initial research on the causes, early detection and prevention of identity fraud and theft, along with other evolving threats from cyber-criminals.
CIMIP will also look into the impact of policy decisions, legislation and regulatory actions on ID theft, and ways to improve identity authentication systems to reduce fraud and other crimes.
Government officials lauded the organizations chances to help slow down the epidemic of identity-related crimes that have overtaken the Internet, such as phishing and pharming schemes, and so-called Nigerian scams.
"Identity theft has become rampant in our society and to better combat the problem we need bold, new and innovative solutions," Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Chairman of the House Science Committee, said in a statement.
For starters, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, will work with CIMIP on the international criminal groups believed to be responsible for many of todays online identity fraud attacks.
By studying these groups methods of operation, organizers said, CIMIP hopes to provide new information to law enforcement officials and corporations, and help them create new ID theft prevention and detection plans.
"Identity theft is a growing problem with significant negative effects on American businesses and individual citizens and potentially disastrous effects on U.S. national security," said James H. Burrus, acting assistant director of the FBIs Criminal Investigative Division.
"This logical partnership of government, industry, and academia will utilize the resources and talent of each partner, and everyone, including the American public will benefit."
On June 26, a new bill was introduced before the U.S. Senate that aims to create a national standard for preventing ID theft among banks and other companies that frequently handle such data.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) echoes a California law passed in 2003 that already requires firms to inform their customers and other consumers when a situation has occurred that may have put those individuals information at risk for fraud.
Government officials began calling for better laws to protect consumer information after a 2004 incident at data aggregator ChoicePoint where the personal data of at least 145,000 consumers was purchased from the firm by 50 different fraudulent companies.
ChoicePoint was forced to report the problems publicly based on existing California ID protection laws, which many other states have moved to mirror.
"Information technology has changed our lives tremendously, and for the better. But right now, many Americans are rightly confused and frightened about identity theft," Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) said in a statement.
"The challenge we face is how to take advantage of the benefits achieved through the advances of technology without compromising our basic right to privacy."