Tech Giants Join Forces Against ID Theft

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A group of industry heavyweights, including Amazon.com, eBay and Microsoft, is joiningforces to fight the onslaught of online identity theft, which is hindering onlinesales and damaging the economy.

The Coalition on Online Identity Theft is geared to focus on public education; promotepreventative technology; document and share information regarding online fraudulentactivity, and work with government and law enforcement to better protect business andconsumers.

''Ultimately, the solution is a shared responsibility among industry, government andconsumers to advance education and awareness, stronger penalties, cooperation withinindustry and law enforcement, and work together to prevent the spread of this problem intoe-commerce,'' says Harris N. Miller, president of the Information Technology Association ofAmerica, the high-tech trade group that organized the new coalition.

The coalition, according to industry analysts, has a big job ahead of it.

Identity theft incidents grew by 79 percent in the 12 months between June of 2002 and Juneof 2003, according to a recent report from Gartner, Inc., a major industry analyst firm.That means 7 million U.S. adults, or 3.4 percent of U.S. consumers, were victims of identitytheft during that one-year period. And it's a crime largely going unpunished. Gartneranalysts say that thieves have better than a one in 700 chance of being caught by federalauthorities.

Researchers at the Aberdeen Group, a Boston-based industry analyst firm, say the problem ofidentity theft is only getting worse.

The financial damage caused by online identity theft is not only mounting, it's exploding ata growth rate of about 300 percent a year, according to Aberdeen analysts.

Financial loss from identity theft is expected to reach $73.8 billion in the United Statesby the end of this year -- $221.2 billion worldwide, reports Aberdeen analysts in a recentstudy. The current trajectory -- based on a 300 percent compound annual growth rate -- hasthe figures reaching $2 trillion by the end of 2005.

And Aberdeen analysts say it's a profitable crime. It currently pays an average of $9,800per incident, according to the Aberdeen report.

The coalition formed to fight this problem is initially focused on reaching out to othercompanies and organizations interested in safeguarding the future of e-business, accordingto Miller. He adds that the group is going to try to coordinate its efforts with the FederalTrade Commission, the Department of Justice and other federal, state and local lawenforcement agencies.

Founding members of the coalition include: Amazon.com, the Business Software Alliance,Cyveillance, Inc., eBay, the Information Technology Association of America, McAfee Security,Microsoft, RSA Security Inc., TechNet, Verisign, Visa U.S.A., WholeSecurity, Inc., and ZoneLabs, Inc.

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