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100m US records exposed by security blunders

ID theft milestone reached

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The total number of US customer records compromised as a result of security blunders has hit the 100m milestone.

The running total of potential compromised records recorded by the US Privacy Rights Clearinghouse since February 2005 reached this milestone with news last week of the loss of a laptop by a Boeing worker, a breach that potentially affected 382,000 current and previous workers at the aircraft manufacturer.

The running total maintained by PRC represents the approximate number of records that have been compromised due to security breaches, not the number of individuals affected. Individuals may be the victims of more than one breach, which would reduce the total number of potential victims.

Only data breaches that result in information useful to ID thieves - such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and driver's license numbers - count towards PRC's tally, though it makes a record of other types of other (less serious) breaches.

PRC began tracking data breaches in February 2005, when ChoicePoint admitted that ID thieves had swiped information on 163,000 victims from the company's database. The breach was the first significant case to fall under information security laws passed by California in 2003, which have acted as a template for legislation in other states. These laws have served to highlight a problem that had undoubtedly existed for years.

As PRC points not not all incidents of data breaches result in ID theft but the number of compromised records that it chronicles still represents a serious cause for concern, especially since ID theft has become one of the fastest growing forms of crime on both sides of the Atlantic. ®

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