An Ominous Milestone: 100 Million Data Leaks


A sobering milestone was crossed last week when the count of personal records compromised by companies and educational institutions in the last two years alone surpassed the 100 million mark (out of a U.S. population of over 300 million). Of these, educational institutions represent more than 40 percent of known data breaches according to AARP research in July 2006. This is about twice the rate of other government agencies and businesses. Databases maintained by universities and colleges are of particular interest to cybercriminals because of the huge quantity of personal and financial information these contain about students, their parents, and alumni.

Although identity loss does not automatically mean identities stolen, the critical issue is creating the potential for abuse.

“Right now, there is just too much data, and the criminals simply have not figured out a way to commit crimes against a million individuals all at once” says Julie Fergerson, a vice president at Debix, an identity protection firm. “At some point organized crime is going to get real organized and actually figure out what to do with the millions of identities and user accounts sitting on these thieves’ computers.” Read the article.

Things to think about when reading this article

  • Congress has been unsuccessful in passing national legislation that will help consumers better protect their data. Only 18 states have passed bills allowing consumers to proactively freeze their lines of credit; seven more allow consumers to freeze credit only after they are victims of identity fraud.
  • Although the loss of your data doesn’t necessarily result in identity theft,  you may find that as thieves get more sophisticated you suffer ID theft many times over as crooks apply for car loans, create fake identity cards, steal your medical record or play  confidence tricks—all using your good name.
  • You need to actively monitor your credit history. See my blog, “Protect your credit,” to learn more on how to do this, and to demand better consumer protection.

To learn more about how to protect your information read Chapter 14 (“Get Savvy About Financial Scams and Fraud”) in Look Both Ways: Help protect your family on the Internet.


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