NEWS

Academic, Corporate, and Government Organizations Unite to Solve Identity Management Problems

By Matthew Harwood

A coalition of academic, corporate, and government partners today announced the creation of a new nonprofit organization dedicated to empirical research on a broad array of identity management concerns from cybercrime and identity theft to human trafficking and terrorism.

Located at Indiana University (IU), the Center for Applied Identity Management Research's (CAIMR) work will help organizations determine the best way to verify people's identities before they gain access to a building or a computer network, said Fred H. Cate, director of IU's Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, at the National Press Club this morning.

"That challenge will only be solved through close cooperation among industry, government, and academia, so that we can combine our knowledge, experience, data and money to build effective, reliable tools," Cate explained. "The creation of CAIMR marks the beginning of a new era of collaborative, multidisciplinary research necessary to solve identity management challenges."

The center's research will focus on identity management issues impacting four main sectors: commerce, individual protection, national security, and public safety.

The need for people to securely prove their identity, especially after 9-11, has permeated almost every facet of modern life, from employment to air travel to shopping online. Yet at the same time, identity theft has exploded. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year. Typically, stolen identities are used to commit all types of fraud, most commonly credit card fraud, with impunity.

Only about one in 700 ID thieves are caught, according to the rough estimates of Jay Foley, executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

In May 2006, President Bush created the Identity Theft Task Force to determine ways for organizations to protect people's personal data and fight identity theft. Its report, released last April, provided a long list of recommendations for the federal government and the private sector when handling a citizen's or a customer's personal information, especially their Social Security numbers.

According to CAIMR's research agenda, the center's work "will undoubtedly be influenced by the recommendations" of the president's report.

CAIMR hopes to bring together experts from various sectors and disciplines—such as financial crime, the law, law enforcement, biometrics, cybercrime and cyberdefense, data protection, homeland security, risk management, and national defense—to establish best practices, develop new technologies, make policy recommendations, and foster training and education.

The center's emphasis on collaboration and cooperation has also attracted government partners.

"Successfully combating emerging identity crimes requires that the Secret Service and law enforcement forge and enhance partnerships with industry, academic, and research organizations," said Michael P. Merritt, assistant director of the Office of Investigations for the Secret Service.

The Department of Defense and the Federal Marshals Service have partnered with CAIMR as well.

Many of the panelists said empirical research is necessary because even stakeholders do not know the extent of their identity management problems or the right solutions to protect and verify someone's identity. Jack Hermansen, a chief technology officer for IBM's Global Name Recognition group, said the full scope of identity and Social Security number theft is unknown.

Another challenge the center hopes to illuminate, said Cate, is how an organization develops the proper policy to balance the demands of keeping a network relatively open and secure in a cost-effective way that protects privacy .

Anne Wallace, president of the Identity Theft Assistance Center, a consumer advocacy group, asked how much of the center's research would actually help consumers.

CAIMR Executive Director Gary R. Gordon said the center's work will help every sector of society, whether public or private, because "the challenges faced by everyone are the same."

"If we solve a problem using government-provided data," he said, "I think those solutions will be applied across the board."

Nearly all of CAIMR's research products will be available to the public, free of charge, on the center's Web site.

Currently, 19 organizations have partnered with CAIMR including the University of Texas at Austin, Lockheed Martin, Lexis Nexis, VISA, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

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