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Coalition launches ID theft center

A group of corporations, universities and law enforcement agencies looks to counter identity theft.

A coalition of corporations, universities and federal law enforcement agencies on Wednesday opened the Center for Identity Management and Information Protection, whose mission is to research identity theft problems and solutions.

The CIMIP will explore a range of identity theft topics, from its causes to the effect of regulatory action, to improvement in identification authentication systems.

The coalition includes the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, LexisNexis, IBM, Utica College, Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University and Syracuse University. CIMIP is the latest organization to use a collaborative approach to address security IT issues. Other such groups include the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST) and the Anti-Phishing Working Group.

"We're working with some of these groups, and FIRST is a partner, but these organizations tend to focus on individual (cases) and take a piecemeal approach," said Gary Gordon, CIMIP's executive director and a professor of economic crime management at Utica College. "We want to pull pieces of their research together in with ours?and be a clearinghouse of research."

The center expects to operate on a budget of nearly $500,000 in its first year, of which half is coming from corporations and the other half from federal grants, Gordon said. The center, however, expects to double or triple its funding in its second year, he added.

In addition to the causes of identity fraud, the center's research will focus on early detection and prevention. It will also will home in on how cybercriminals' tactics have evolved.

Security experts have noted that over the past couple of years, hackers have become less interested in launching attacks for the sake of notoriety and more to make money from identity theft. In 2004, an estimated $52.6 billion was stolen via identity theft, although most of the thefts were not executed online, according to a survey by Javelin Strategy Research.

The group will also research the effect policy decisions, legislation and regulatory actions have had on combating identity theft. Congress, for example, introduced a bill in the spring that called for law enforcement agencies to be notified before the public when a data leak occurs.

Other areas of research for CIMIP will include improvements in identity authentication systems, as well as the role of emerging technologies to guard information and improve privacy for users.

"Identity theft is a growing problem with significant negative effects on American businesses and individual citizens and potentially disastrous effects on U.S. national security," James Burns, the acting assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division, said in a statement. "From this threat, the CIMIP was born."

The center plans to share its research and provide identity management resource information to companies, law enforcement agencies, academics and the public via its Web site and other forums. CIMIP will also sponsor symposia on the topic.

"Information technology has changed our lives tremendously, and for the better. But right now, many Americans are rightly confused and frightened about identity theft," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who recently introduced a privacy bill of rights in the U.S. Senate, said in a statement. "The challenge we face is how to take advantage of the benefits achieved through the advances of technology without compromising our basic right to privacy."