Identity Theft Grows

IN A RECENT survey on identity theft, Americans said their number one fear was having a bank account, credit card or other personal information stolen from their computers. Interestingly, the second greatest concern was Trojan viruses that can make a computer an unwitting accomplice in distributing spam, infections, or child pornography. The survey was conducted by independent research firm, Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research, on behalf of Kindsight, developer of identity theft protection services.

Identity theft is on the rise. In 2008, 9.9 million Americans were victims of identity theft, up from 8.1 million in 2007. And criminals are continuing to move to the web. Online threats grew three-fold, to 1.7 million. While much of the attention is focused on monetary loss, damage to reputations is also high in the minds of Americans. “The online culprits are no longer the teen hackers in the basement, but sophisticated criminals,” says Mike Gassewitz, Kindsight CEO. “Once they have someone’s personal information, not only can they deplete bank accounts and damage credit ratings, but they can also use a person’s computer to distribute spam and pornography. Essentially, they can damage someone’s wealth and reputation.”

The most common attacks include Trojan horses and other viruses, keystroke logging, phishing attacks and spyware. In the Kindsight study, participants named Trojan horses as their top concern. Although 71 percent of the survey sample had installed and updated antivirus software and 44 percent had enabled a firewall on their home router and/or computers, 30 percent still recorded having been infected by a virus in the last three months, and 77 percent of the overall sample reported having been infected at some point in their computing life. The online survey was representative of the U.S. population overall, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.