Sunday, August 21, 2005

Colleges struggle to combat identity thieves

Universities are constantly being hacked. On this blog alone, I have referred to dozens and dozens of privacy/security incidents involving post-secondary institutions (check this out).

Today's Boston Globe is running a story on how vulnerable universities are and what some are trying to do about it.

Colleges struggle to combat identity thieves - The Boston Globe

"... ''[Universities] are certainly getting a collective black eye," said Beth Givens, director of the San Diego nonprofit group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. ''I suspect there's a lot of hand-wringing in universities these days. Those in the IT departments are starting to tell administrators, 'See, I told you so, we have to have better control.' "

Universities provide a target-rich environment for identity thieves -- an abundance of computer equipment filled with sensitive data and a pool of financially naive students.

''A lot of times younger people think, 'I don't have a lot of money, so I don't have to worry about this.' " said Dennis Jacobe, chief economist at Gallup. A recent Experian-Gallup poll indicated that a quarter of surveyed consumers under 30 said their personal information had been stolen.

The academic culture that embraces the open exchange of information lends itself to identity theft. Add to that diffuse tech systems and independent departments and the struggle to stifle breaches becomes even more challenging.

''Because we're so big we're kind of decentralized," said Anthony Wood, director of academic computing at the University of California, San Diego, which has experienced several data breaches in the past year. ''Academic freedom [tends] to have people doing things on their own. And because we have so many [Internet] addresses, we're more visible."..."

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