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Data Executives Admit Earlier Identity Losses

Executives of two data brokers involved in recent major identity leaks told U.S. senators they'd informed hundreds of thousands of consumers of earlier security break-ins.

Executives of two data brokers involved in recent major identity leaks told U.S. senators Wednesday that they'd informed hundreds of thousands of consumers of earlier security break-ins.

In a hearing held by the Judiciary Committee, executives of ChoicePoint and LexisNexis -- both of which either sold data to fraudsters or had their networks hacked -- told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) that prior to California's Security Breach Information Act going into effect in 2003, they weren't required to tell users when data was lost or stolen.

Both companies, their executives testified, said that they uncovered the security breaches during investigations into the most recent, and massive, data leaks they have each suffered.

Kurt Sanford, the chief executive of LexisNexis' U.S. corporate and federal government group, told the panel that his company had discovered nearly 60 breaches going back to early 2003, but didn't know how many had not been reported to consumers or how many users were involved.

ChoicePoint's chief operating officer, Douglas Curling, who also spoke before the committee, said that his firm had found "45 to 50" breaches altogether, and admitted in at least once case, no one involved was informed.

Feinstein used the hearing -- and the recent disclosures of security gaffes and data hijacking -- to tout legislation she introduced earlier this week.

"We urgently need a strong national standard that says whenever a data system is breached, everyone who is at risk of identity theft must be notified," she told the committee in a prepared statement.

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