Data Security And Identity Theft: Consumers Forsaking ID Theft Services.

Forbes has an article, “Consumers Are Ditching The $2.4 Billion ID Theft Protection Market.”  I was hoping to read how the world out there had become safer due to the use of data protection tools like full disk encryption from AlertBoot and the like.  Instead, it turns out that people are opting out of ID theft services because they haven’t thought things through.

Are ID Theft Monitoring Services Useless?

The article starts off with a bang:

As purse strings have tightened over the last couple of years, most consumers no longer think spending $200 a year on identity theft protection services makes sense. And they’re probably right. []

Ironically enough, I saw this ad right next to the above words:

After having a good laugh at how the Gods of internet ad space work, I took a serious look at what the author had to say, and I’d say he’s sending conflicting signals.  On the one hand, he notes that,

  • Consumers are right in ditching ID protection services

  • There was a drop of 90% in individual record breaches from 2009

On the other, he notes that,

  • The 90% drop is because 2010 didn’t see a massive one-time data breach

  • People “feel” secure because the news was pretty free of ID theft news this year (a world of difference between feel secure and are secure, by the way)

  • Victims are defrauded anywhere from $2,556 to $18,000

At the same time, most losses are eaten by financial institutions, so the actual hit by consumers was $373 in 2009 (it was $720 in 2007).  These are average figures, though, meaning that for each person who had didn’t pay a cent, there was another who paid $743*.  In other words, an ID theft protection service for $150 either pays off handsomely or it doesn’t, depending on which category you belong to.

Unfortunately, you can’t tell which one you’ll belong to in advance.  So, are such services useless?  Hard to tell.  If I had to choose them over groceries, groceries win.  If I had to choose it over cable TV, Comcast loses.

I’m all for choosing what works for one; however, if it turns out that people are opting not to use something because they “feel” safer, not because they “are” safer, then I can’t agree to that.  Let me put it this way:  I’ve been in the eye of a tropical typhoon, literally.  It sure feels safe and calm, especially after the chaos from hours before; but, if I’m smart, I’m not gonna go on a picnic because I know that the chaos is coming again.

Feeling safe and being safe are two very different things, and depending on the situation, one could confuse the one with the other.

*(yeah, I know…statistics doesn’t quite work that way.  I’m just pointing out that averages mean squat when it comes to individual experiences).

Encryption for Data: You Are Safer

Are we safer?  Or do we feel safer?  All signs point to the latter.  My job requires me to keep track of data breach news.  So far, we haven’t had any gargantuan breaches this year.  But, there are plenty of small ones.

And by small, I mean breaches that affect anywhere from 10 people to 10,000 people.  10,000 sounds pretty big, but nationwide media is not interested unless there are millions affected.  Identity theft is well and alive, and active.  You’re not safer, you just feel safer.

The only way you’d actually be safer is if breaches can be eliminated, which can’t happen in theory.  At best, you can only mitigate.  That means the use of information security tools such as encryption software, to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data in the event a device gets lost or stolen.

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