Sunday, October 15, 2006

Get you aluminum hat on

THe Chicago Tribune has an article today, titled "Weapons of identity destruction" - an interview with Dr. Stephen Haag, who is called "an expert in emerging technologies," and "who has written dozens of books on technology." I did find a Dr. Stephen Haag at the University of Denver - he's a professor of MIS in the business school - who seems to fill the bill. But nothing in that bio indicates an expertise in either identity or terrorism.

In the interview, he foretells the possibility of "identity terrorism":

"What they would have to do is write a little piece of software, weapons of identity destruction, all sitting on a Web server on the Internet, timed and waiting to go. They would unleash the virus, so it could crash banks, financial institutions, the government identity management systems, any large company in which a lot of transactions are made."

Not your normal virus, though.
"Identity theft occurs in many ways--people stealing laptops, spoofing e-mails, sending out phishing e-mails. ... Those people who have the stolen identities would sell them to a terrorist group.

The terrorists then would have to take a look at the information and build these weapons of identity destruction, very small pieces of software that would go out [over the Internet] for the millions of people for whom they have identities, and alter their identities within organizations, within the Social Security Administration, within First Data, within MasterCard, within airlines, ... whatever it has to be.

The result would be to cause a transaction failure, for the system to say, I don't recognize you anymore and therefore cannot process your transaction."

What the good doctor doesn't cover is how these 'very small pieces of software' would actually work, and what form the 'transaction failure' would take. Would I simply need a new password? Change of address? New credit card number? What's the mechanism supposed to be???

But, just like in the bad science fiction movies of the 1950's, he ends on a portentious note: "Realistically, this is something that can happen at any point in time. ... This, theoretically, is something very much that could happen tomorrow."

Look to the skies!

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