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: Facebook goes retro with 'Rooms' chat app

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Obama unveils new measures to stem identity theft

Oct 17, 2014

US President Barack Obama on Friday ordered "pin and chip" security measures for government payment systems, aiming to stem the proliferation of credit card fraud and identity theft.

JPMorgan breach heightens data security doubts

Oct 03, 2014

New details on a cyberattack against JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s computer servers this summer add to increasing doubts over the security of consumer data kept by lenders, retailers and others.

Breaches emphasize need for scanning, encryption

Mar 17, 2009

Recent news reports indicate a computer containing confidential information about the helicopter that transports President Barack Obama was breached by a computer in Iran. In January, Heartland Payment Systems, a company ...

Recommended for you

Facebook goes retro with 'Rooms' chat app

14 hours ago

Facebook on Thursday released an application that lets people create virtual "rooms" to chat about whatever they wish using any name they would like.

Some online shoppers pay more than others, study shows

15 hours ago

Internet users regularly receive all kinds of personalized content, from Google search results to product recommendations on Amazon. This is thanks to the complex algorithms that produce results based on users' profiles and ...

Twitter looks to weave into more mobile apps

Oct 22, 2014

Twitter on Wednesday set out to weave itself into mobile applications with a free "Fabric" platform to help developers build better programs and make more money.

Google unveils app for managing Gmail inboxes

Oct 22, 2014

Google is introducing an application designed to make it easier for its Gmail users to find and manage important information that can often become buried in their inboxes.

User comments : 0