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March 2006

This chapter is from the book

MONDAY: MARCH 13, 2006

THIS WEEK’S FOCUS: Computer Security and Privacy

IDENTITY THEFT

Imagine someone stealing your life. The thief steals your name, your Social Security number, your bank accounts, your credit cards. In the eyes of many, the thief becomes you—and uses your personal information to commit all manner of fraud.

This type of theft, which starts with a simple theft of data, is known as identity theft—and can be very serious, indeed. If your identity has been stolen, you won’t be able to cash checks, use credit cards, or get cash from an ATM. You’ll have previously written checks bounce, creditors harass you about nonpayment on your accounts, and financial institutions refuse to issue you any new credit. You’ll have your good name—and credit rating—sullied, and experience all manner of problems that could take forever to work out.

How can an identity thief get his hands on your personal information? There are a disturbingly large number of ways, including stealing your wallet or purse, stealing your postal mail, dumpster diving through your trash, tricking your company’s human resources department into providing your personnel records, tricking you into providing the information via so-called phishing schemes, stealing the data from a large bank or clearing house, and flat-out buying the information—illegally, of course.

Notice that only a few forms of identity theft happen exclusively over the Internet. In fact, a greater threat comes from poor security procedures at your bank or credit card issuing company. However it happens, identity theft is no joke; it’s a huge problem, especially if you have to try to rebuild your identity and credit after a theft.

ON THIS DAY: HENRY SHRAPNEL DIES (1842)

Three guesses as to what Henry Shrapnel is famous for. That’s right, this former English soldier was the inventor of the Shrapnel shell, a spherical artillery shell designed to explode in midair and spread its content of small lead musket balls in a manner that inflicted injuries on enemy soldiers over a wide area. He died on this day in 1842.

FACT OF THE WEEK

Two-thirds of computer security experts expect that the U.S. will suffer at least one devastating attack to its national information network or power grid within the next 10 years. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project (http://www.pewinternet.org), these experts outlined several types of threats, including physical attacks to central parts of the Internet’s infrastructure and cyber-terrorist attacks on key utilities and industries.

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