Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Worry. But Don't Stress Out.

Filed under
Security

THE theft of computer data at an Arizona company that put as many as 40 million credit card accounts at risk for fraud may have been the largest case of stolen consumer information yet.

But the incident, which was revealed last week and may have occurred months ago, surely will not be the last. In fact, the theft was only the latest in a series of incidents, not all of which involved criminal activity. Earlier this month, for example, United Parcel Service lost data tapes with personal information on nearly four million customers of Citigroup.

The problem of keeping data secure "exists on lots and lots of levels," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. "You begin to see that the United States has an enormous problem that is spiraling out of control."

And like seismologists who can look at smaller tremors and know that a major quake is in the offing, consultants and others who study data security and identity theft can confidently predict that more trouble is ahead.

The question, for them, is one of magnitude, whether there will be the electronic equivalent of the Big One, an incident so widespread, compromising so much personal information, that it devastates the system of financial transactions that underpins the consumer economy.

Data thefts and accidental losses have always occurred, Mr. Tenner said. What has changed is that there is now a law in California requiring companies to inform consumers when their information is breached.

Some experts argue that protecting personal data is a hopeless task, that the emphasis should be on making transactions more secure."Making information harder to use is the key," Mr. Schneier said. "Making it harder to steal is a dead end."

One problem is that there currently is little financial incentive to improve security for transactions. "Credit card companies are putting the cost of fraud on the merchants, who put it on us the cardholders," Mr. Spafford said. A governmental role may be necessary, he said.

Whatever the improvements, few experts envision a complete solution. "Any security measures are at best only buying time," Mr. Tenner said. "It's really like the development of antibiotics - they are always trying to stay ahead of the problem."

"For the optimist, this can go on indefinitely," he added. "For the pessimist, it's like the man who jumped out of the 20th floor of a building. As he passed the 10th floor he said, 'So far, so good.' "

Full Story.

More in Tux Machines

Ruby 2.2.0 Released

We are pleased to announce the release of Ruby 2.2.0. Ruby 2.2 includes many new features and improvements for the increasingly diverse and expanding demands for Ruby. Read more

2014 Catalyst Linux Graphics Benchmarks Year-In-Review

With the year quickly coming to an end, it's time to do our year-end driver recap benchmarks from the year for the proprietary AMD and NVIDIA graphics drivers as well as the open-source drivers. To get things started, here's benchmarks done of the official AMD Catalyst Linux releases of 2014 and testing these drivers on three different graphics cards. Read more

From Red Hat's CEO: Reflecting on a 'great year,' looking to '15

It is confirmed: 2014 has been a great year for Red Hat. [On Dec. 18], we announced third quarter results of our fiscal year 2015 and, with that, celebrated our 51st consecutive quarter of revenue growth - more than 12 years of consecutive revenue growth. Thank you to the team of Red Hat customers, partners, open source contributors, and associates around the world, for helping us propel Red Hat to new heights. While 2014 has been a fantastic year for Red Hat, it has also been a banner year for open source. Read more Also: Red Hat Tech Exchange highlights: Architect, Implement, Enable

Open Source's 2014: MS 'cancer' embrace, NASDAQ listings, and a quiet dog

Ho hum. Another year, another slew of open source announcements that prove the once-maligned development methodology is now so mainstream as to be tedious. Running most of the world’s most powerful supercomputers? Been there, done that. Giving retailers the ability to deliver highly customized paper coupons to consumers based on warehouse inventory nearby? So 2013! And yet in 2014 we had a few events in open source that managed to surprise us, and suggest an even brighter future. Read more