Identity Theft and the Internet
When listening to the TV the other day I saw a story on identity theft. The story stated that there was another incident of stolen personal bank account information that placed thousands of people at risk for identity theft. What struck me was that in this story were PC tips that you could do to prevent identity theft which seemed to me like mixing apples and oranges.
People were put at identity theft risk by the Bank’s employees. These employees stole personal information from the Bank. The information was stolen using personal computers, CDs or the ubiquitous thumb drives that easily store information from almost any PC. Such identity theft crisises are not caused by the Internet, but rather, caused by poor Bank hiring practices and management checks and balances. Bank employees with authorization to access private personal information on their work PC merely copied the personal information to a CD or other storage medium and carried it out of the Bank. Then they sold the personal information to third parties. No matter what precautions anyone took on their home PC, it was impossible to stop this breach of privacy done by the Bank employees.
When you bank online across the Internet, your private information resides on the Bank's computer and not in your PC. The only information in your PC which could be used to compromise your privacy is your user ID and password. If you do not store these on your PC, then your private information is more secure. User IDs and password stored on your home PC can be captured by Trojan horse programs and sent across the Internet to unscrupulous parties. Those unscrupulous parties would have to know which bank you use in order to be able to sign on and you personal information for identity theft purposes. While this was one tip offered in the TV story, it would not have prevented the information compromise that occurred because the bank employees stealing information already had other Bank authorization to view that information.
To keep information at your home secure there are several things that you can do. These are:
2. Always enter ID and password information for any financial accounts every time you access them. Never store user ID and password information on your home computer where Trojan horse programs can copy and send them across the Internet.
3. When you are not using your home PC, turn it off. A powered off PC cannot be attacked by Trojan horse, backdoor, and other malicious software.
4. Check your virus scanning software weekly. Make sure that the signature files are up to date. Check to see if any malicious software has been found by viewing the log files created by your virus scanning software.
5. Install and run spyware removal software in addition to virus scanning software. Both viruses and spyware can contribute to identity theft.
The only reason to mix apples and oranges was to add more story filler. Identity theft by unscrupulous employees at your Bank is really separate from identity theft using personal information stolen from your home. It certainly is important to protect from both types of identity theft. In one case protection requires selecting a Bank that has good management and auditing procedures and hires trustworthy employees. In the other case you must make it much more difficult for your private information to leave your house and fall into unscrupulous hands.
Link to 'Spoofing' and 'Phishing' and Stealing Identities
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