Thursday, February 17, 2005
Thanks to a credit reporting company called ChoicePoint, you'll be happy to learn that you might be at high risk for identity theft. ChoicePoint said Tuesday that hackers had broken into its database and stolen personal information about customers. More than 100,000 people are at risk, but ChoicePoint won't say who they are in states other than California, since the laws in those other states don't require them to. "Remember this the next time some corporate lobbying group whines about excessive regulation," writes Kevin Drum. But wait, there's more: As Jason Levine (a.k.a. Queso) points out, it wasn't hackers at all who were responsible for the information getting out, but ChoicePoint itself. Criminals created fake businesses and set up accounts with ChoicePoint, which handed the information over to them.
"Notice the difference?" writes Levine. "If it's reported that nefarious hackers broke into ChoicePoint and stole the data, then ChoicePoint comes out looking like a victim. On the other hand, if it's reported that the failure was in ChoicePoint's internal mechanisms for verifying the validity of an account application, the existence of the company behind that application, and the right of that company to obtain credit information, then ChoicePoint is revealed as a remarkably large part of the problem." Thus far, he says, only MSNBC is reporting the story correctly.