It’s one of the more difficult conundrums surrounding internet use: the more awareness and education about internet safety that works its way into the public consciousness, the faster the bad guys have to work to keep up. As organizations like the ITRC work to keep the public informed about some of the more dangerous behaviors and best practices associated with having an online presence, the more creative hackers and identity thieves have become in order to continue their crime sprees.
But new legislation proposed by US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been put forward as a possible solution to much of the worry about identity theft and financial fraud, especially as it pertains to the financial and retail industries. The bill, called the Cyber Information Sharing Tax Credit Act, would offer tax credits to businesses that participate in information sharing specifically as it relates to cyber threats and technology vulnerability.
The tax credit is meant to be an incentive to share information between companies, and will work to offset the costs associated with voluntarily participating in this type of group. It would essentially allow businesses to examine one another’s vulnerable practices and learn from previous incidents that have struck other companies and corporations.
According to a statement on the legislation on Senator Gillibrand’s website, the purpose of the legislation is clear. “Businesses should take the same precautions to defend their data as they do with their buildings and inventory. Just as they purchase insurance and security systems, they should enter into agreements with information sharing organizations to help defend against cyber-threats. From financial institutions and health care systems, to our electric grids and grocery stores, we are losing billions of dollars and putting our critical infrastructure at risk because of inaction. We must do more to strengthen our defenses online, and information sharing among businesses is a critical step that must be taken.”
How many incidents are we really talking about? Since the horrific incident on September 11, 2001, there have been more than 4,000 different large-scale security breaches on US businesses resulting in more than 500 million personal information records being accessed by criminals. Senator Gillibrand’s bill comes on the heels of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 Commission’s report which showed that America is currently sitting at what they called “September 10th” levels for cyber security, meaning we’re all just one day—metaphorically speaking—from the next unthinkable attack. This time, however, experts believe the threat may be digital in nature and will have much farther reaching consequences.
Without waiting for a national response, a number of states have already explored their own versions of incentive programs for businesses within their states that are willing to share security information. Maryland is one such state, which earlier this year enacted its own tax credit up to $450,000 annually for participating companies that invest in recognized cyber security protocols to protect their consumers. Reports also indicate that other organizations are currently at work on better information sharing systems, especially between government defense contractors.
However legislation ends up affecting this kind of change, there is still a definite need for awareness and understanding of how to best protect yourself at the consumer level. While corporations will hopefully develop better standards and cooperation for preventing cyber attacks, it still remains the job of the individual to safeguard his personally identifiable information and keep his personal data safe through smart online behaviors and careful monitoring of his credit information.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign. For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.