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Identity and Authentication Services

Just assume your identity has already been stolen

Created: 06 Aug 2008 • Updated: 08 Aug 2012
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by Perry Tancredi, Senior Product Manager, VeriSign Fraud Detection Service

I'm Perry Tancredi, and I manage the VeriSign VIP Fraud Detection Service product. A lot of times when I explain what I do to my friends and family, especially when I talk about some of the latest attacks we see, the conversation turns to whether or not it's too risky to do anything online at all. People want to know if I think banking and shopping online is safe, what virus program I use at home and what they should be doing to protect themselves.

I had already been writing this post when the news about the largest case of identity theft in America (BBC, Washington Post), it seems more relevant now. There's been a lot of coverage last night and this morning, but I happened to be available when the story BBC story was being written,and got the chance to talk to and be quoted by the BBC. I'm a long time NPR and BBC listener, so I do have to say that it was quite a kick to hear Maggie Shiels say my name on the radio last night.

I told the BBC what I typically tell anyone else who asks, that while for the most part, the Internet is secure, but the most important thing anyone can do is just assume that their accounts are going to be compromised. Credit card and personal data are stolen every day using all kinds of methods, and it's not all Internet related. Most people are most concerned about the security at the point of sale, but don't think about what happens with the information later. When you assume that your accounts will be compromised one way or another, you have to start doing what you should have been doing anyway: reading your credit card statements and monitoring your credit reports. It's not fun, but it's easy to spot suspicious transactions when you look at statements every month. If you see something suspicious, call your bank or credit card company. Likewise, if you see something strange on your credit report, follow up on it.

The VeriSIgn Fraud Detection Service (FDS) works on the same pricipal. Protect the front door, but stay on the alert after you've let someone in. Out of the box, the FDS allows our customers to look for suspicious logins, but it was built to be modular and allow the analysis of any kind of transaction, and really reaches its full potential when it looks at post-logon transactions. We already have customers who have written their own modules using it to protect wire transfers online. Soon we'll release our first module to look at a specific kind of post-logon fraud, and that will be just the first module of many.

With more and more organizations looking beyond login, consumers will be safer, and the combination of users and organizations being more vigilant will move the bar that much higher for the fraudsters.