Firms team on online identity theft

Online retailers and technology companies, including Microsoft Corp., eBay Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., are teaming up to fight online identity fraud.

The Coalition on Online Identity Fraud was launched Tuesday by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) IT industry trade group, which will act as the coalition's secretariat.

Public education campaigns are needed to educate consumers, while technical and self-help solutions are needed to prevent and deal with the crime, the ITAA said. The companies in the coalition will share and document information on cybercrimes, to stay ahead of the latest type of criminal activity, the association said.

The Business Software Alliance, a founding member of the coalition, sees this as a priority area for the whole industry, Shannon Kellogg, director of security policy said Wednesday.

"We have two messages. It's important to highlight the issue, and also to make suggestions that help consumers to empower themselves with the technologies that are out there," he said.

The majority of identity theft still comes from offline sources, including personal information thrown away by consumers, the ITAA said. That information can then be used in scams to get further personal information, such as passwords and social security numbers, and to buy products or apply for loans. The coalition is keen to stop the spread of the problem into e-commerce, it said.

"We expect a report to be released by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission this week, showing a strong increase in identity theft, both physical and online. The data I've seen shows that the physical problem is enormous but you bet we're concerned about online too," Kellogg said.

The coalition will push the U.S. government for effective enforcement and penalties against criminals, and will work with government agencies including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the ITAA said.

While the coalition is U.S.-focused, the companies involved are global and will recognize that identity theft is a global problem, Kellogg said.

The founding members of the coalition are Microsoft, eBay, Amazon.com and the ITAA, plus the Business Software Alliance, Cyveillance Inc., McAfee Security, RSA Security Inc. TechNet Inc., Verisign Inc. Visa U.S.A. Inc., WholeSecurity Inc. and Zone Labs Inc.

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