Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Congress urged to boost identity theft safeguards

Filed under
Security

It takes only a few seconds for your financial identity to be stolen, but months to get it back and clean up the credit mess. Aware of consumers' frustration and fear, the government wants Congress to consider more protections.

Lawmakers should look at strengthening laws that govern the way companies store and use sensitive consumer data, the Federal Trade Commission recommended at a Senate hearing Thursday.

The agency's chairwoman, Deborah Platt Majoras, also endorsed the idea of a law requiring companies to tell consumers about a security breach when there is significant risk of identity theft.

California has a law that requires such notification; many other states are considering following suit.

Nearly 10 million people fall victim to identity theft annually, costing consumers $5 billion in out-of-pocket losses and businesses $48 billion, according to the FTC.

The nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center estimates the average victim spends 600 hours trying to clear up credit problems. The center, based in San Diego, helps people recover from the crime.

Identity theft has become even more alarming for consumers in recent months with disclosures of data losses or possible breaches at CitiFinancial, Time Warner Inc., Wachovia Corp. and Ameritrade Holding Corp.

At the hearing, Majoras announced a settlement with BJ's Wholesale Club in a case the FTC said led to the theft of credit and debit card data involving thousands of customers. The data was used, the agency said, to make millions of dollars in illegal purchases.

BJ's, based in Natick, Mass., will not have to pay a fine. The company agreed to submit to outside security audits for 20 years and tighten protection of customer information.

``This information is like gold. It's as valuable as money these days and it ought to be treated that way,'' said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., before the hearing by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Schumer and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have introduced an identity theft bill that would require notification and higher security standards for personal data, such as encryption. Schumer also said the bill would impose fines on companies of up to $1,000 per customer violated.

Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, supports tougher security standards for companies as well as federal and state notification laws.

``What we're hearing from consumers really is a fear that even if they're doing everything right, they can still become a victim,'' said Susanna Montezemolo, a policy analyst with the group.
Experts say banks and other companies can do more.

``Without any question, some of the incidents that have occurred underscore the need for encryption, particularly when you're transmitting information electronically or tapes by delivery,'' said Rick Fischer, who has spent more than 30 years advising banks and other financial institutions on data security and privacy issues.

Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

University fuels NextCloud's improved monitoring

Encouraged by a potential customer - a large, German university - the German start-up company NextCloud has improved the resource monitoring capabilities of its eponymous cloud services solution, which it makes available as open source software. The improved monitoring should help users scale their implementation, decide how to balance work loads and alerting them to potential capacity issues. NextCloud’s monitoring capabilities can easily be combined with OpenNMS, an open source network monitoring and management solution. Read more

Linux Kernel Developers on 25 Years of Linux

One of the key accomplishments of Linux over the past 25 years has been the “professionalization” of open source. What started as a small passion project for creator Linus Torvalds in 1991, now runs most of modern society -- creating billions of dollars in economic value and bringing companies from diverse industries across the world to work on the technology together. Hundreds of companies employ thousands of developers to contribute code to the Linux kernel. It’s a common codebase that they have built diverse products and businesses on and that they therefore have a vested interest in maintaining and improving over the long term. The legacy of Linux, in other words, is a whole new way of doing business that’s based on collaboration, said Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of The Linux Foundation said this week in his keynote at LinuxCon in Toronto. Read more

Car manufacturers cooperate to build the car of the future

Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) is a project of the Linux Foundation dedicated to creating open source software solutions for the automobile industry. It also leverages the ten billion dollar investment in the Linux kernel. The work of the AGL project enables software developers to keep pace with the demands of customers and manufacturers in this rapidly changing space, while encouraging collaboration. Walt Miner is the community manager for Automotive Grade Linux, and he spoke at LinuxCon in Toronto recently on how Automotive Grade Linux is changing the way automotive manufacturers develop software. He worked for Motorola Automotive, Continental Automotive, and Montevista Automotive program, and saw lots of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota in action over the years. Read more

Torvalds at LinuxCon: The Highlights and the Lowlights

On Wednesday, when Linus Torvalds was interviewed as the opening keynote of the day at LinuxCon 2016, Linux was a day short of its 25th birthday. Interviewer Dirk Hohndel of VMware pointed out that in the famous announcement of the operating system posted by Torvalds 25 years earlier, he had said that the OS “wasn’t portable,” yet today it supports more hardware architectures than any other operating system. Torvalds also wrote, “it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks.” Read more