January 1, 2009

Low Tech Ways to Reduce Identity Theft

With identity theft surpassing drug trafficking as the number one crime in the US (I don’t suppose it is much different in Canada or elsewhere), clients need all the help they can get in protecting themselves. Although the information necessary to steal an identity may be obtained through phishing or other computer-based attacks, there are low-risk, low-tech attacks that even the most unsophisticated criminals can employ.
Sifting through personal garbage, otherwise known as “dumpster diving”, is not even a crime in many places. According to the US Justice Department, this is the second most common way of obtaining the information used in identity theft. Again, I have to assume that things are not much different in Canada, Australia, the UK, South Africa, or anywhere else.
When assessing clients’ security practices, don’t forget to account for the “hard copies”. Sensitive documents are printed, filed, placed in hoppers on desks, and left in insecure locations. So-called “junk mail” often contains personal information. All those credit card offers that come with some of the information already filled in are treasures for thieves.
Fax machines are another concern. If sensitive faxes automatically print to a location that is not secure, anyone can read them. The same applies to shared printers.
Paper shredders are low-tech, but one of the most important security tools available. As with anything, the secure way must also be the easy way. If people have to walk five steps further to shred a document, there it a good chance it will end up in the trash.
Sometimes we focus on the technical solutions because, well, technology is what we do. Printed paper and garbage are hardly high-tech, but are still important things to consider when assessing security.
Dennis H – July 30, 2008

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