As the Identity Theft Resource Center helps to recognize National Cyber Security Awareness Month, it is appropriate for us to reflect upon how much has changed in the world of privacy, cyber security and identity theft in the last 10 years.

In 2003, the cost of a gallon of gas was $1.83 compared with the approximate $3.90 we see today.  Apple had just launched iTunes and the first iPod only two years previously (January and October 2001 respectively).  It would still be another four years until the first iPhone would be launched.  Now, 10 years later, it is announced that Apple is the number ONE most value brand in the world (surpassing even Coca-Cola).

In 2003, Google had been around for 7 years and was enjoying the almost inconceivable number of 200 million searches per day, and Gmail was getting ready for launch in early 2004.  Today, Google handles more than double that traffic, has 67% share in the U.S. search market and there are now 425 million Gmail users.

The ITRC is celebrating a 10 year anniversary as well.  In 2003 we were recognized as a 501c3 non-profit.  At that time the sole mission of the ITRC was to provide the best in class victim assistance at no charge to consumers throughout the United States.  That goal has remained at the core of the ITRC’s mission. However, much has been added to our goals and activities. We now provide education and awareness initiatives in identity theft related issues such as cyber security, data breaches, scams and fraud.  It is our goal to stem the tide of identity theft by determining issues that are potential pitfalls for consumers and helping them to minimize their risk.

One constant over the past 10 years has been the steady increase in the number of victims of identity theft.  For more than the last 10 years (13 years actually) identity theft has been the number one fraud related complaint captured by the FTC Consumer Sentinel Report.  We have seen this number of reported victims grow from 31,000 in 2000 (FTC Consumer Sentinel) to 8.6 million in 2010 (Bureau of Justice Statistics).

While we recognize that low tech mechanisms certainly still exists as a means to pilfer one’s identity, we believe the tremendous growth in the crime must be attribute to the overwhelming growth of the cyber world.  This year it is estimated that the number of cell phones on the planet will outnumber people.  We are all walking around with a tiny computer in our hands and all the inherent risk that poor cybersecurity practices carry with it, are now carried in our pockets and purses.

Sound cybersecurity practices are at the base of the pyramid when it comes to protecting our identities.  That is why the ITRC is a champion of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.  We have scheduled several projects that will demonstrate both our commitment to this effort and the importance of its success.  From a local presentation at a town hall meeting on October 1st, to a twitter chat that will attempt to engage a national audience, we are preparing to make great efforts to build awareness of this issue. Please engage in this dialogue this month.  Get your families, from you mother and father down to your children, this is everyone’s business!

“How Far We Have Come” was written by Eva Velasquez. Eva is the CEO/President of the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to the author and linking back to the original posting.