Data and Identity Theft
Brian wakes up one morning responds to a few tweets/Facebook messages and takes a shower then goes to make some breakfast. After he finishes eating he checks his email and responds to a few more Facebook posts. As Brian goes through his daily routine he begins to notice more and more spam mail in his spam folder that seem to have an uncanny amount of information about him but he just shrugs it off and chooses to ignore it. Brian then discovers the convenience of online bill pay so he starts paying everything online. After a few months strange charges start to pop up on his credit report. When begins to realize that someone has stolen his credit card information and is making fraudulent charges, he then starts to wonder what else had they stolen? Do they have his social security number? Did they steal entire identity? Just how much information had he given away to total strangers? Imagine the sense of panic that must begin to set in and you try to figure out how much trouble you are really in. The sense of personal intrusion as you must now dispute and try and prove that these charges made were not by you. If you are the average American and don’t have perfectly maintained credit this becomes difficult. Most of us have fairly erratic spending patterns on our credit report cause mostly by spontaneous buying decisions and eating out or splurging when we get a bit of extra cash.
Now Brian, who was just enjoying the convenience that technology brings, must endure the tedious process of restoring his credit back to what it was and disputing all of the fraudulent charges that were made. Sadly he is not alone as the amount of data and identity theft is on the rise from 11% to 18% in just 6 short months. This is a frightening amount of growth in such a short period of time if it kept up this trend it could be at 50% in just a few years if it’s not reined in. The question now becomes why Brian or anyone else should have to suffer when they have done nothing wrong apart from being mildly ignorant about internet security. Every time you log on the Facebook, post a tweet or send an email you leave something behind; something that may seem meaningless or inconsequential. That thing you left behind is data- a little bit of information about you what you like, who you talk to, what you do for fun. Now this may not seem like a big deal and for most people it’s not since they would probably share this information with strangers anyway. What about your credit information? What about home address and phone number? Even small bits of information about what you like or dislike is valuable and is bought and sold by “information” brokers to large companies or by individuals interested in your identity. The brokers will sell to anyone who will pay regardless of what their intentions are. For an example of this here’s a quote from Zhang D (2012 Experts: Data Trafficking profits outweigh punishment” Zeng Zhizhong, ring leader, said, Most of the time, we acquired raw data online, not face to face. The personal data were bought in bulk, usually according to region. We’d pay 500 to 1,000 Yuan for a whole region’s worth of data." 1,000 Yuan translates to about 159 dollars in US currency. Essentially he got your entire Neighborhood’s personal data for 159 dollars. As the title “Data Trafficking profits outweigh punishment” implies they are basically saying that it’s ok to steal your information because it makes the company money. Now while this crime is illegal, it is difficult to enforce since there is no real authority on it and it transects so many different regions that there often jurisdictional disputes. Now this is a case that happened in china but that’s not to say it hasn’t happened or isn’t happening right now in your state or neighborhood. How would you know? The sad truth is until they started making charges you wouldn’t they could know…