How to Be Someone ... Else
I'm in the middle of an engrossing book from the "Stealing the Network" series called "How to Own an Identity," a narrative penned by at least 10 different authors about ways in which criminal hackers evade detection and capture by creating and assuming new identities.
The subtitle of the book, "You Are Who the Computer Says You Are," is a chilling truth when you stop and consider what it's really driving at. A paragraph from the beginning of the book explains:
"The people of the world have granted control of their existence to computers, networks, and databases. You own property if a computer says you do. You can buy a house if a computer says you may. You have money in the bank if a computer says so. Your blood type is what the computer says it is. You are who the computer says you are."
That passage resonated with me. I've recently interviewed several people who were either arrested or denied a job because of some erroneous information that turned up in their credit records or background checks. The scary part is that many of the anecdotes in this book probably are based at least in part on actual events about which the authors had direct or indirect knowledge.
Reading this book sheds light on a oft-overlooked reason that identity theft is the fastest growing white-collar crime in America today: it offers crooks the ability to wipe their criminal and/or credit slate clean -- if only at someone else's expense and headache, of course.
Among the most insidious types of identity theft, known as criminal ID theft, occurs when someone committing a crime provides identification information that belongs to someone else. Then one day, when the innocent person gets pulled over for a speeding ticket, WHAM! He gets thrown in jail.
In some cases, where the crime the real perpetrator is wanted for is serious enough, that innocent victim can stew in jail for days before things get straightened out, a misunderstanding that can endanger a victim's family or their job.
I had the pleasure of meeting many of the book's authors while in Las Vegas this year for the annual Defcon and BlackHat (in)security conferences, including Raven Alder, Riley "Caezar" Eller, Johnny Long of "Google Hacking" fame, and of course Defcon/Blackhat founder Jeff Moss.
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