Computer Crime Research Center


Computer crime, new figures

Date: October 24, 2005

Concern about data privacy has been growing within the corporate world for years. But it has begun to take center stage in boardrooms and IT departments following high-profile breaches of customer payment information and other confidential data. Nash cited a 2005 CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security survey that estimated the total financial damage caused by unauthorized access to sensitive information has grown 600 percent over the past year, with 30 percent of companies reporting losses. More than half (56 percent) of these breaches were performed by people within the companies, according to the survey.

In the United States , new federal and state regulations, such as the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the financial account requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, have created strict legal requirements for privacy for many businesses. Laws in Europe, Canada , and Japan add additional regulatory requirements for international businesses.

Nash and other experts said the protection of corporate and customer data needs to be viewed as more than a legal obligation for today's businesses; it must be seen as a key to building customer trust and business success.

“Branded organizations begin with a concept of trust. If the public believes we are using information inappropriately or are not protecting it adequately, it will really hit the trust concept very, very hard,” said Marty Abrams, senior policy advisor and executive director of the Center for Information Policy Leadership, during the “What Is It?” segment of the webcast. “It's hard to recover from a loss of reputation.”

In fact, more than eight out of 10 consumers say they would stop doing business with a company if they heard or read that the company misused customer information, according to a 2003 study by Privacy &American Business.

Businesses worldwide are investing vast resources to address the challenges of privacy and security, yet they continue making headlines. At the root of the challenge, the Security 360 panelists noted, is the question of how businesses approach privacy – even how they and the general public define the term.

Panelists defined IT privacy as the protection of a broad swath of corporate data. In addition to intellectual property and corporate secrets, companies need to protect confidential customer health and financial information, as well as personal information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, credit-card information and even information about browsing habits.

During the 360 Roundtable, hosted by Roberts, Adam Shostack, an independent cryptographer and security expert, said the term privacy is used in everything from advertisements to sell curtains to political short hand during the ongoing debate about abortion rights. Privacy “has this enormously broad spectrum of meaning,” Shostack said. If companies don't consider this broad spectrum, they are likely to touch a raw nerve with their customers, he said.
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