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Innovation in Information Security

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Ignorance is no Excuse

After noted British television presenter Jeremy Clarkson took umbrage at the massive outcry regarding the loss of personal records for 25 million UK residents he decided to prove that it was an over-reaction (in his mind) by publishing his bank details in a newspaper column that he writes. According to Clarkson, the worst that could be done was that someone would be able to deposit money into his account.

Unfortunately for Clarkson, a reader was able to establish a ?500 direct debit to a Diabetes charity, direct from his account. While this should not have been allowed to take place (the bank should have required correct proof of identity in order to establish the direct debit), it was a wakeup call for Clarkson, who acknowledged the misconceptions that he originally held and recognised that the loss of personal data can have significant negative effects on those whose data has been misappropriated.

It is rare to see such a public reversal of opinion on such a matter, and it is likely to serve as a clear example to many about the risks associated with the loss or mishandling of personal data.

While the incident is unfortunate, it is highlighting a problem with the UK banking system. As Clarkson initially pointed out, all someone should have been able to do would have been to add money to his account, but the result showed that there is at least one UK bank that is more than happy to allow money to be withdrawn from an account without really validating that the account holder is the one authorising the withdrawal. Some comments have gone as far as to suggest that the financial industry is complicit in data theft cases - being too ready to allow the withdrawal of a victim's financial resources.

11 January 2008

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