Is danger of identity theft overblown?

May 23, 2006

The announcement yesterday about the loss of personal electronic data on up to 26.5 million veterans is the latest in a string of similar reports about information security breaches at major institutions in the last two years. These reports have heightened public concern about the risk of identity theft, which often is referred to in media reports as "the nation's fastest-growing crime."

Though these incidents are troubling and new threats may yet emerge, the danger of identity theft is being overblown by the press and politicians, according to Indiana University law professor Fred H. Cate. Cate, the director of IU's Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research and a recognized expert on information privacy and security, cites recent data available from government, industry and academic studies that demonstrate that identity theft is not being fueled by information security breaches. The studies suggest that identity theft is actually declining, not increasing, Cate said.

"The risk to consumers of most breaches is not as great as popular rhetoric suggests, and only a small percentage of breaches actually involve any harmful use of data," he said. "There is plenty of reason to be concerned about data security breaches and about identity theft, but the link between the two is often overblown by politicians and the press."

"The real danger," according to Cate, "is that we become so focused on activities that don't pose a real risk to consumers, that we ignore those that do."

Source: Indiana University

Explore further: ICANN chief stepping down in early 2016

Related Stories

The first 72 hours are critical for hacking victims

Mar 12, 2015

US President Barack Obama is seeking US$14 billion to tackle it. The UK wants to build a start-up industry around it. And Australia is in the middle of what could be a year-long review into getting better ...

Recommended for you

ICANN chief stepping down in early 2016

19 hours ago

The head of the group that oversees all Internet addresses will step down early next year, after a plan to end US oversight of the key nonprofit organization.

How alternative currencies could catch on and cash in

22 hours ago

Alternatives to cash, like Bitcoin and Uber, may never replace the coins in our pockets or paper bills in our wallets, but they are creating significant social and economic impacts, and with some design adjustments, ...

Spotify introduces video, radio service

May 20, 2015

While saying that it is still a music company at heart, Spotify says it is expanding its lineup to include podcasts, news radio and video streaming.

For US allies, paradigm shift in intelligence collection

May 20, 2015

Fearful of an expanding extremist threat, countries that for years have relied heavily on U.S. intelligence are quickly building up their own capabilities with new technology, new laws and—in at least one ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.