Feature Article
Mark Pribish
Lesson Learned in 2008: No One Can Protect Your Information From Being Lost or Stolen
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

Question: What does a federal government agency (FEMA), state government agencies (New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Louisiana Department of Revenue, Central California Appellate Program, Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation), the university and college system (Ohio University, University of North Carolina, Austin Peay State University, Oregon Health & Science University, Cal Poly Pomona), the medical industry (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center), the auto dealership industry (Bill Dube Ford/Toyota), the movie theater industry (Zyacorp Entertainment Cinemagic Stadium), and the computer industry (Hewlett-Packard/Symantec) all have in common?

Answer: These 15 organizations representing seven industry groups experienced data breaches in which a combined 300,000 names, social security numbers and other sensitive information were "lost" or stolen. In addition, four of these organizations reported that they did not have full knowledge of the extent of the data breach - in other words they did not know the total number of their employees, customers, members, students, etc., affected by each data breach.

And here is the most telling part of 2008 - all of the data breaches mentioned above either occurred or were reported in the first 26 days of December 2008. In addition, the overall number of breach events was significantly higher than all of 2007.

One example from above includes a news report where computer hackers breached the computer servers of a Merrimack, New Hampshire movie theater and stole customer credit card information. Local police and the Secret Service determined that a security breach occurred over the summer after investigators received numerous reports of credit card fraud -- where most of the victims used their credit cards at a Zyacorp Entertainment Cinemagic Stadium movie theater in Merrimack.

This example should remind all of us that every time you use your credit card, debit card, and/or provide sensitive information like your social security number to make a purchase from a retail store or restaurant; file your state or federal taxes or take advantage of state or federal government services; pay for college tuition; purchase a new automobile or obtain a personal, auto or home loan; pay for dental or medical services - or something as benign as buying a movie ticket - we are at risk of having our personal information be "lost" or stolen.

On a personal note, I am always interested in seeing how often a company whose employee and/or customer information was just stolen, issues a statement reading something similar to "to the best of our knowledge, we have no indication that the stolen credit card numbers (or social security numbers) have been used to commit any fraud but we encourage our customers to check their credit card records and credit reports to make sure no one is using the stolen credit card numbers or social security numbers."

Lesson learned: No one company or service can protect your information from ever being lost or stolen. So continue to read the news and educational websites to learn more and stay current with the latest data breach events and trends to protect you and your family.