Making a Privacy Investment

Find out how to reduce risk and keep private data private.

To users and operators of information systems, the plummeting costs of digital storage and processing power are becoming as much a threat as a blessing when it comes to protecting data privacy.

Massive processor complexes combing through vast banks of data are silver-bullet solutions for those whod like to gain unauthorized access to the byproducts of personal transactions and enterprise business processes.

The edge of the wedge for attackers is the growing ease of accumulating histories of traffic. More bandwidth to the network—and more capacity to store whats seen—means more raw material that attackers can sift for common mistakes. Users make a gift of their data, for example, by using identical IDs and passwords on multiple Web sites.

Compounding the problem is growing ease of traffic interception. Sniffing wireless links, for example, is much easier than tapping network cables and is also easier to associate (using directional antennas and physical surveillance) with specific individuals. Other personal data, such as home address or automobile license plate number, can then be collected to enable full-spectrum identity theft. Naive deployment of off-the-shelf wireless products is the fastest-growing threat to IT systems and can only be contained by user-friendly security tools and user training.

System builders reduce their risks by decreasing the number of places where one careless mistake can compromise a system.