The news of the latest breach last week reported that tens of millions of customer and employee records were stolen by a sophisticated hacker incursion. The data lost is reported to include names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and addresses.
The nature of the stolen data has the potential to create long-term headaches for the organization and tens of millions of individuals. Unlike a retailer or financial breach, where stolen payment cards can be deactivated and new ones issued, the theft of permanent identity information is, well, not easily corrected. You can’t simply reissue Social Security numbers, birth dates, names and addresses. What’s more, the data likely includes identity data on millions of dependent minors, who are prime targets for identity thieves and whose credit goes frequently unmonitored.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2014 Data Breach Report, a record 783 breaches, representing 85 million records, occurred from January through September 2014 alone. The breaches have ranged across virtually every industry segment and data type.
So where does all this breached data go?
It goes into the massive, global underground marketplace for stolen data, where it’s bought and sold, and then used by cybercriminals and fraudsters to defraud organizations and individuals. Like any market, supply and demand determines price, and the massive quantity of recent breaches has made stolen identities more affordable to more fraudsters, exacerbating the overall problem. In fact, stolen health credentials can go for $10 each, about 10 or 20 times the value of a U.S. credit card number, according to Don Jackson, director of threat intelligence at PhishLabs, a cyber crime protection company.
The big question: So what now?
The answer: Assume that all data has been breached, and act accordingly.
Such a statement sounds a bit trivial, but it’s a significant paradigm shift. It’s a clear-headed recognition of the implications of the ongoing, escalating covert war between cybercriminals and fraudsters, on one side, and organizations and consumers on the other.
For individuals, we need to internalize this fact: our data has likely been breached, and we need to become vigilant and defend ourselves. Sign up for a credit monitoring service that covers all three credit bureaus to be alerted if your data or ID is being used in ways that indicate fraud. Include your children, as well. A child’s identity is far more valuable to a fraudster as they know it can be several years before their stolen identity is detected. Many parents do not check their child’s credit regularly, if at all.
For organizations, it’s a war on two fronts: data protection and fraud prevention. And the stakes are huge, bigger than many of us recognize. We’re not just fighting to prevent financial theft, we’re fighting to preserve trust — trust between organizations and consumers, at the first level, and ultimately widespread consumer trust in the institutions of finance, commerce, and government.
We must collectively strive to win the war on data protection, no doubt, and prevent future data breaches. But what breaches illustrate is that, when fundamental identity data is breached, a terrible burden is placed on the second line of defense — fraud prevention.
Simply put, organizations must continually evolve their fraud prevention control and skills, and minimize the damage caused by stolen identity data. And we must do it in ways that reinforce the trust between consumers and organizations, enhance the customer experience, and frustrate the criminals.
At 41st Parameter, we are at the front lines of fraud prevention every day, and what we see are risks throughout the ecosystem. Account opening is a particular vulnerability, as consumer identity data obtained in the underground will undoubtedly be used to open lines of credit, submit fraudulent tax returns, etc. unbeknownst to the consumer. Since so much data has been breached, many of these new accounts will look “clean,” presenting a major challenge for traditional identity-based fraud and compliance solutions. But it’s more than new accounts — account takeover, transactions, loyalty, every stage is in jeopardy now that so much identity data is on the loose. Even the call center is vulnerable, as the very basis for caller authentication often relies on components of identity.
At 41st Parameter and Experian Fraud & Identity solutions, we advocate a comprehensive layered approach that leverages multiple solutions such as FraudNet, Precise ID, KIQ, and credit data to protect all aspects of the customer journey while ensuring a seamless, positive user experience across channels and lines of business. Read our fraud perspective paper to learn more.
Now is the time to take action.