RealTime IT News

Bush Goes After ID Theft on National Level

Reporter's Notebook: President Bush signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon creating a national Identity Theft Task Force.

Speaking at a Roosevelt Room gathering of ID theft victims, Bush said, "What we're going to do is make sure that the 13 governmental agencies involved with identity theft have a well-coordinated strategy to help the victims and to put those who commit the theft behind bars."

The taskforce will be headed by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and co-chaired by Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras.

Just exactly what this taskforce will do is still unclear, but Entrust President and CEO Bill Conner suggested, "With the fragmentation of different state and local laws and penalties, it has become a burden for organizations to navigate the nuances of each one.

"This presidential action should serve as a catalyst to achieve some kind of ubiquity among the laws."

That said, Conner added, "We hope the federal government's leadership role on identity theft doesn't end with this taskforce. While this is a positive step, Congress needs to pass a data breach notification law that reassures consumers, clears up the patchwork of state laws and gives organizations the option to protect customer data through encryption."

More than 15 bills dealing with ID theft and data breach disclosure have been introduced in the 109th Congress.

FTC cautions on data breach laws: Earlier on Wednesday, the FTC's Majoras said her agency supports stronger penalties for ID theft but was a bit more circumspect when it came to a national data breach disclosure law.

"The [FTC] has recommended that Congress consider whether consumers should be notified if sensitive information about them has been breached, but only if the breach creates a significant risk of identity theft," Majoras said at the Progress and Freedom Foundation's cybersecurity summit.

Majoras, though, warned that requiring notices for breaches that "pose little or no threat" could possibly create consumer confusion and extra costs for businesses.

"Formulating the right balance is difficult, and there are different notice triggers that could be considered, with the goal of requiring notice only when it is useful to do so," she said.

Unfortunately, it's exactly those sort of caveats that have slowed the movement of a national data breach disclosure law.

Can't we all just get along?: The problem with emergency interoperability for first responders is not technological but jurisdictional, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said earlier this week.

According to Chertoff, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has allocated in the last three years more than $2.1 billion to states for interoperable communications systems.

Congress has even more money in the pipeline for equipment, planning, training and exercises.

Yet, as Hurricane Katrina proved, interoperability between first responders is still more concept than reality.

"I think most people think there's some kind of technological problem, that we just need to invent or buy something and that's going to cure the problem," Chertoff told a Tactical Interoperable Communications conference.

"But I'm going to tell you that the biggest barrier to interoperability is not technology. The equipment and technology that is required at this very moment exists today."

The problem, Chertoff explained, is state, local and community battles over that $2.1 billion pork pie.

"The problems associated with the lack of coordination in the public safety community stem throughout all our jurisdictional boundaries," he said.

"They include issues like turf fighting over the management and control of radio systems. They include lack of a shared and agreed upon priority for achieving interoperability."