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Identity Theft + Big Data = Identity Reconstruction

Posted by Steve Phillips on Dec 8, 2015 11:22:58 AM

Steve Data Security

Credit card companies fight fraudulent charges with sophisticated algorithms that detect when transaction locations, frequency or amounts fall outside the normal patterns for the credit card user.

But what if the hackers that stole the credit card number also had access to those buying patterns? It could take days or weeks longer for the card owner and provider to discover, allowing criminals to rack up thousands more in fraudulent charges.

That’s the idea behind “identity reconstruction.” In the past, thieves would exploit each piece of stolen personal information—logins, financial accounts, medical, records, etc.—individually. The approach was to get the most out of the information as quickly as possible before abandoning it once the theft was discovered.

Your identity is a puzzle.

Today, malicious hackers take a strategic, more patient view. They treat each piece of information as a puzzle piece that tells them a little more about you. The more complete the puzzle is, the more effectively they can assume your identity.

For example, if they discover your ATM PIN number, they might also find out you always withdraw $200 every Friday afternoon. Knowing this, they might skip an immediate withdrawal and wait until Friday instead, staying within your normal use parameters.

To identify these complex patterns, they use the same “big data” and data analytics technologies that companies like Avnet use to sift through large volumes of data to find patterns of actionable intelligence. The more information they know about you, the more valuable that record becomes to identity thieves.

What you can do. The best defense against these types of longer term attacks is simple awareness and vigilance:

  • Upgrade to longer, stronger passwords
  • Regularly review financial statements
  • Use caution when providing personal information

All of these day-to-day precautions can help neutralize identity thieves’ best efforts.

This blog was originally part of our recently released whitepaper, FY2016 State of IT Security: What You Need to Know. Click to download free today. Also, make sure you visit Behind the Firewall for more CIO insights.

Tags: Security, Business, Data Security, Hacker, Big Data and Analytics, Breach