Liberty Alliance Looks to Prevent ID Theft

The consortium's new Identity Theft Prevention Group will bring together resources from its member companies to try to minimize the threat.

A new outpost has been constructed in the battle against identity theft, with the launch of a Liberty Alliance-run global group that targets the problem from multiple fronts.

Aiming to attack the issue through technology, policy, and business activities, the Identity Theft Prevention Group will bring together resources from its member companies to work collaboratively on minimizing the threat.

The Liberty Alliance is a consortium of more than 150 companies, nonprofit organizations and government agencies focused on developing an open standard for federated network identity that will work on all current network devices.

Identity theft is an issue that Liberty has been concerned about for some time, said Liberty Alliance President George Goodman. The consortium began making plans for the prevention group last year, in response to what it saw as a growing threat to individuals and companies.

One of the groups first tasks will be to work on policy decisions, according to Goodman. From there, it will determine the need for technology support.

"Initially, if we can put some policies in place and establish some guidelines, well be able to move forward in other areas like technology," he said.

Over 40 Liberty member organizations are participating currently, representing a broad array of industries from financial institutions to wireless providers.

The Liberty Alliance seems uniquely suited to spearhead the development and adoption of technical specifications designed to combat identity theft, said Jonathan Penn, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

The formation of the new organization is a complicated endeavor, he added, considering how many interest groups are also trying to tackle identity theft. But Liberty appears to be off to a good start by soliciting participation and establishing a common agenda.

"Hopefully, early success will breed broader participation and further project momentum," Penn said.

One looming challenge will be how Liberty works with related groups, he added, as well as how it deals with the scope and focus of the identity theft problem.

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"One pitfall to avoid is the potential for redundancy of purpose with some of the many other companies, organizations and consortia who are also working on this," Penn said. "Liberty could serve as a type of clearinghouse, providing direct information and answering inquiries where appropriate, and directing inquiries to other, third-party resources already established."

It also remains to be seen how the Liberty Alliance will fold its identity theft activities into its current mission to develop an open standard for identity sharing. Goodman noted that the group will look at that issue once policy directions have been set.

"There have been criticisms in the past that if you have this open standard, it could actually help identity thieves," said Dave Jevans, chairman of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a watchdog organization. "The formation of this identity theft group is partially in response to that."

The newly formed consortium has a formidable task ahead, but in many ways it is a noble one, Jevans said.

"Identity theft prevention is a big issue, and a difficult one," he said. "It brings together so many different areas like technology, education, law enforcement and best practices. But the more attention it gets, the better it is for all of us."

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