As statistics from anti-fraud organisation Cifas show identity theft reaching “epidemic levels”, expert in information security Professor Ian Robertson comments on why this problem is increasing and how it can be tackled.
"Firstly, 'Identity Theft' covers a wide range of crimes: from perhaps someone using your car registration to get free parking through to using tout passport to facilitate terrorist activity. We all have many forms of 'identity' and all are to some extent vulnerable.
Why is the problem increasing? As we move towards a more 'on-line' society the traditional 'face-to-face' checks have become redundant. At the same time, the facilities available on-line (shopping, booking tickets, banking and simply expressing our opinions) provide an easy, low-risk route for criminals.
Is the rise inevitable? We have slipped into an era of 'freedom without responsibility'. The controls we need to stop identity theft and to prevent associated crimes all exist and could be fully implemented - but at some financial cost to governments and trade and the possible loss of convenience to ourselves. On-line (or over the phone) identification is clearly possible using a combination of better technologies (fingerprints, voice recognition, chip-and-pin cards etc.) and more rigorous processes and checks on proof of identity, particularly whenever we enrol for a new service.
As a source of technology, organisations like the University of Warwick can clearly play a direct part. However, there are deeper ethical and moral issues we also need to consider: should we allow anonymous comments on social media? Should we encourage the use of anonymous trading using systems like Bitcoin? Do we mind the potential loss of medical information so long as the data is used for our benefit? With identity comes responsibility and society, government and the media need to take the problem more seriously".
Kim Ingram, Assistant Press Officer – University of Warwick: