Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

07-03-07

Contacts:

Mike Ferlazzo, News Service, (515) 294-8986, ferlazzo@iastate.edu

ISU experts weigh in on identity theft through new wireless technologies

AMES, Iowa -- Cell phones and BlackBerry handhelds have become necessities that many Americans don't want to live without. But they may be rethinking those decisions after recent news reports of identity theft through wireless technology.

French government security experts reportedly banned the use of BlackBerries in ministries and in the presidential palace out of fear that they could be vulnerable to snooping by foreign intelligence.

Some families in the U.S. have reportedly been threatened on their cell phones by criminals who know private information about them and sometimes play back personal conversations recorded inside their homes.

Iowa State University faculty and staff experts are available to provide insightful commentary on all forms of identity theft. Experts include:

Maury Hope

Associate Chief Information Officer

(515) 294-0323, mmhope@iastate.edu

Hope oversees ISU's Information Systems, and IT Security and Policies areas. He has more than 35 years of experience in information technology in business and higher education -- previously serving as a vice president of information services in the property and casualty insurance industry. Hope recommends that identity theft victims consult the Federal Trade Commission's National Resource on Identity Theft Web site (click here), or Visa's site, (click here). He also can provide prevention tips and warns of a new phishing scheme that entices victims with a "greeting card e-mailed by a family member or friend."

Doug Jacobson

Associate professor of electrical and computer engineering

(515) 294-8307, dougj@iastate.edu

Jacobson can discuss issues related to computer security, including the privacy of personal information, hackers, computer forensics and his one-of-a-kind virtual Internet for designing and testing computer defenses. He launched his own computer defense company, Palisade Systems Inc.; and directs Iowa State's Information Assurance Center, developed Iowa State's Internet-Scale Event and Attack Generation Environment, and has worked with industry to establish a national Center for Information Protection.

"Identify theft is getting more commonplace as the criminals have figured out how to convert data collected from the Internet into money," said Jacobson. "They are targeting people directly through social engineering using email messages that lure us into providing information that can be used to steal an identity. They are also using rogue software to try and steal information directly from the computers. "People need to be careful while using the Internet," he said. "They need to think about what information they provide others and what they download from the Internet. If you do not know the person, then be careful."

Anthony Townsend

Accenture Faculty Fellow in Management Information Systems (MIS)

Associate professor of MIS

(515) 294-7834, amt@iastate.edu

Townsend is co-author of the book "Information Technology and the World of Work" (Transaction Publishers, 2004), and researches today's latest technology and its implications. He was lead author of a 2001 paper titled "Electronic Empire," which was published in Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery).

"Much of the problem with modern communications systems is the fact that no communication is momentary," said Townsend. "In a classic face-to-face or telephone conversation, your comments, your voice, and the meaning of what you were saying only existed in the moment of the communication. With modern communication, most systems of communication -- including email, instant messaging, and some telephones -- create some degree of persistence of their content. In other words, your communication is recorded. Add to this increasing use of wireless communication for cell phones and laptops -- which creates the potential for message intercepts -- and you might as well be posting everything you say onto YouTube.

"There are ways to combat all of this," he said. "Simply put, be cautious about all conversations over telephones, be doubly cautious about email and instant messaging, and use encryption for private correspondence. While this won't stop the problem of a jilted lover publishing your correspondence, it will make it harder for bad guys to get to you -- and they'll move on to someone else."

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Hope

Hope

Jacobson

Jacobson

Townsend

Townsend

Iowa State University faculty and staff experts are available to provide insightful commentary on all forms of identity theft, including some of the latest coming from cell phones and BlackBerry handheld devices.

Quote

"With modern communication, most systems of communication -- including email, instant messaging, and some telephones -- create some degree of persistence of their content. In other words, your communication is recorded. Add to this increasing use of wireless communication for cell phones and laptops -- which creates the potential for message intercepts -- and you might as well be posting everything you say onto YouTube."

Anthony Townsend