Firms unite to fight online ID theft

Computerworld (U.S.)

Key IT vendor and e-commerce players in the U.S. last week said they’re forming a coalition to fight online identity theft – a development that coincided with the release of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report showing identity theft to be pervasive and growing.

The Coalition on Online Identity Theft was formed by the Information Technology Association of America, an Arlington, Va.-based IT vendor trade organization, along with Microsoft Corp., several security vendors and such e-commerce heavyweights as eBay Inc. and Inc.

The FTC, meanwhile, found that identity theft accounted for nearly US$48 billion in losses to businesses over the past five years. More than 27 million Americans have been victims of identity theft during that period, and nearly 10 million of those fell victim last year alone, the FTC said.

“For several years, we have been seeing anecdotal evidence that identity theft is a significant problem that is on the rise. Now we know. It is affecting millions of consumers and costing billions of dollars,” said Howard Beales, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Kevin Pursglove, a spokesperson for coalition member eBay in San Jose, said that for the past year eBay has been dealing with hackers who have spoofed its Web site or sent forged e-mails to eBay users in an attempt to extract confidential information.

“The complaints from users have increased over the past six to nine months,” Pursglove said. “We began hearing of the same issue from other companies and realized the issue was not going to subside.”

The “firepower” that the coalition can bring to bear will go a long way toward addressing some of the issues relating to identity theft, said Brendan Lewis, a spokesperson for Mountain View, Calif.-based coalition member VeriSign Inc.

Even though online ID theft is growing rapidly, almost 75 per cent of ID theft still occurs off-line by means of such activities as “Dumpster diving,” said John Pescatore, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Inc.