January 29, 2007
Effective vs. Ineffective Strategies for Combating Identity Theft:
Weighing in on the topic of identity theft, especially in a post-9/11 world, it would seem that a majority of rational individuals cannot be dismissive of considering that enhanced biometrics is the most logical and humane solution with which to help deter identity theft. The science of biometrics as it pertains to identity theft, the latter of which will hereinafter be referred to as IDT, has, for many decades, been an incredibly sensitive and controversial subject at the center of innumerable, social, religious, and political debates. The term IDT has become synonymous with the science of biometrics, as the concepts are interrelated. Many religious groups, for example, are concerned about pretentious governments and contemptible corporations developing various, insidious technologies such as micro-size, computer processor chips, which have been designed to be easily implanted under a person’s skin for the sole purpose of providing instant and total recognition of any given human subject as well as a person’s exact whereabouts. Technically, and for the most part, chipping is specifically the implementation within humans of any radio frequency identification (RFID) device, or similar technology for the purposes of the abovementioned. Some people believe that RFID is the absolute and final solution to the pandemic of IDT.
Assuming that a report by Dr. Judith Collins, which appears in an Education-World.com article, is accurate, one can only be left to deduce that despite passage of the IDT and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998, IDT crime has increased exponentially. Consequently, IDT has resulted in severe damage to the U.S. economy. Coupled with economic damage estimates, some of which remain highly classified state secrets due to trepidation on the part of some social planners who are concerned that disclosure of such information would ignite greater fear thus resulting in the onset of pandemonium among the masses, Dr. Collins states, “Young people aged 18 to 29 years are targeted by most identity thieves.” Dr. Collins also indicated in her financial projection as it related to the annual estimate of damage to the U.S. economy caused by that of IDT, that the total cost “to consumers was $5 billion, and for businesses $48 billion annually.”
Since the techniques used in the commission of committing high tech crime such as IDT are becoming increasingly sophisticated, no one thus far seems to have come forward, at least publicly, with a foolproof method that he/she has devised and with which to totally deter as well as defeat IDT. Therefore, at present and without a panacea, the most logical solution in which to help deter IDT is enhanced biometrics. Enhanced biometrics refers to increasing the strength of mathematical algorithms which represent a large part of the underlying computer processes used to determine a person’s true identity and which are contained within the software of biometric defense checkpoints such as merchant kiosks, stores, shopping centers and a tremendous number of other places. Traditionally, older and now obsolete forms of biometric defense checkpoints were chiefly employed at locations such as banks, military and government installations. Albeit, nowadays, biometric defense checkpoints, also known as electronic ‘gateways’ and in some cases ‘Internet gateways,’ e.g., the latter if a checkpoint is connected to Cyberspace, can increasingly be found at locations such as the entrance to someone’s house, at public schools, at private businesses and at grocery stores via portals and conduits such as small, hand held, information technology (IT) devices, as well as standard computer terminals (PCs), laptops, and cell phones among other types of interfaces.
Biometric defense checkpoints used to combat IDT do not always manifest in the form of the now legendary “retinal” scan seen in older science fiction movies and even some of the more modern movies. In fact, the wide range of biometric defense applications that already exist in addition to the number of those being developed at innumerable, heavily guarded research facilities such as the one located at the U.S. Defense’s Biometric Fusion Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, is mind blowing. For example, it is fair to say, that to date, most Americans are unfamiliar with the full gamut of currently available biometric defense despite the fact that a huge number of Americans are being targeted and/or will be the future targets of IDT. Juxtaposed with that of the aforementioned retinal scan technology, which to some is now construed as laughable given the older retinal scan technology’s inability to correctly gauge whether the subject requesting access to a secure sector was the one actually making the request for access, newer biometric defense applications consist of upgraded features that enable sensors to correctly determine whether a human is dead or alive.
At Bioidentification.com, a Web site maintained by a one Dr. Bromba, some of the lesser known and more obscure, modern, biometric defense technologies currently under development and currently being used in the fight against IDT are for example, technologies that measure certain qualities, geometries and properties of the human ear, body odor and one’s computer keyboard strokes. Though, these technologies may come as a surprise to some and may be viewed as humorous in the reader’s mind, IDT and the biometric weapons used to fight IDT should be taken very seriously.
If we cannot always accurately predict the future and what criminal elements may do next in their pursuit of subversive activities, we can only continue to develop enhanced biometric defenses. Enhancing, thus increasing, the strengths and effectiveness of ethical technologies within the scope of currently available as well as proposed biometric defense applications serves to limit the amount of access that non-experts, skilled computer hackers and dedicated criminals have to other people’s personal information.
Typically, limiting access to personal information is attempted by using a combination of computer hardware and software to perform checks of authentication of a user to a system. A system for example, can include but is not limited to banks, automated teller machines (ATMs), public, private, police, military and government computer networks. Ironically, the preceding networks have often been referred to as “trusted” and “dedicated” networks, whereas these same networks have routinely been proven to be quite the opposite, e.g., untrustworthy and not so dedicated. Notwithstanding, these networks contain personal information such as social security numbers, medical records, criminal offender records as well as top level, classified national security data. Other confidential and highly sensitive information may also include but is certainly not limited to information such as the names and addresses of government informants and codes to financial institutions. It can easily be inferred that any user who has successfully gained access to codes related to that of any given financial institution, whether the user is authorized or unauthorized to have access to such financial institution, could theoretically withdraw funds—perhaps billions of dollars worth of funds. Thus, IDT is a grave threat to our livelihood, our well-being, our national infrastructure and our national security.
We must also consider how alarming the fact is that in the twenty-first century, stolen monies and data are not always easily retrievable in contrast to how much easier it may have been to track similarly stolen monies and data before the advent of certain advanced data forensics technologies. In the not so distant past, thieves having stolen billions of dollars, for instance, in the course of spending the billions of dollars worth of stolen funds, would statistically have left myriad clues for detectives, which would have eventually led to the apprehension and/or identification of some, if not all, of the thieves involved. However, advanced technologies have often been thought of as double-edged swords. Despite certain technologies having been invented which have allowed for better, e.g., cheaper, faster and more powerful, thus reliable, tools, with which to quickly identify criminal schemes and criminal conspirators during their initial stages of planning, sophisticated criminals also have access to many of these same technologies. Incidentally, in the twenty-first century, it has become increasingly easier for high tech IDT thieves to use the Internet as a conduit through which to gain access to individuals’ personal information and thus assume other people’s identities.
In many cases of IDT, it has been incredibly difficult, if not impossible, given certain, perceived, technological limitations, for law enforcement agents, governments and security experts to track various perpetrators of IDT. Invariably, this has given rise to the belief by some groups and by some individuals, that the best way in which to deter IDT altogether, is to implant every man, woman and child with tiny computer “chips” that would store all of a person’s personal information and that would theoretically enable the complete and total, twenty-four hour, global surveillance of said persons. The initiative to chip humans as part of an attempt to deter and altogether defeat IDT is fundamentally flawed as well as fundamentally unethical. On one hand, some people do in fact believe, or at least make the claim that chipping is the best method and therefore the most logically sound strategy for use in what has become a protracted war against IDT as well as what has become a protracted and perceived war against terror. On the other hand, many Christian and religious groups perceive any and all attempts to advance the science of chipping under any auspices that such technologies would on the contrary be used for the greater good, as truly the ultimate encroachment.
In a Finance Services Review article from 2001, John Matejkovic and Karen Lahey rightly offer that their proposed legislation to help thwart IDT is by no means a “perfect” solution. The authors are quite prudent in that their proposed solution, at least to begin with, calls for stiff punitive measures to be taken against any and all of those who have been found guilty of IDT. This is a smarter, more intelligent and thus more sensible approach than that of stripping Americans of our privacy rights under the guise of strengthening national security. But again, some will argue that during a protracted conflict such as the perceived war on terror, having fewer rights is crucial in order to protect national security. As a result of such arguments and initiatives by those who are proponents and in favor of chipping, some legal jurisdictions within the United States have already outlawed the practice of chipping. In regard to IDT abuses involving the Social Security Administration, Timothy O’Brien of the New York Times states in an article on the subject, that in 1998, there were “11,000 complaints” in contrast to that of “7,868” from the previous year. According to one particular Web site called “The RFID Weblog,” Wal-Mart happens to be one of the biggest supporters of RFID in that Wal-Mart claims that RFID helps track store inventory and is therefore harmless.
In Conclusion, chipping humans as a means with which to deter IDT is the anti-thesis of international security. The only viable solution to the destructive forces behind IDT is to continue calibrating thus enhancing the mathematical algorithms of our national-international biometric defense grid until we discover a robust formula which ultimately makes it virtually impossible to circumvent the system even if the latter is merely a utopian idea.
International Law & Ethics
I. Statistics on identity theft crimes in America
2. Teenagers and young adults become prime targets
B. Current applications of tactical biometric defense systems
1. Tracking humans from satellite
2. Cell phones and human voice recognition
II. Studies on enhancing biometric security
A. Brain fingerprinting
1. Impact of brain fingerprinting in forensic science
2. The neuro-graph
B. Retinal scans, passive millimeter wave imaging and other methodologies
1. Spectral analysis in helping to protect one’s identity
2. Gait recognition, handwriting biometrics and facial geometry
III. Media coverage of identity theft cases
A. Television documentaries detailing IDT phenomenon
1. Prominent IDT legal case histories
2. IDT and biometrics as portrayed in movies
B. Current video production on the topic of IDT
1. Media impact on IDT
2. Identity theft support groups interviewed
IV. Counterarguments: Biometric systems erode civil liberties