McAfee Reports on Identity Theft

McAfee announced the availability of a white paper from McAfee Avert Labs highlighting global identity theft trends

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

January 16, 2007

3 Min Read

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- McAfee, Inc. (NYSE: MFE) today announced the availability of a white paper from McAfeeR AvertR Labs highlighting global identity theft trends, including a dramatic increase in online and computer-based identity theft. According to the report, the number of keyloggers-malicious software code that tracks typing activity to capture passwords and other private information-has increased by 250 percent between January 2004 and May 2006. Additional findings show that the number of phishing alerts tracked by the Anti-Phishing Working Group has multiplied 100-fold over the same period of time. The report also provides practical guidelines that minimize the risk of identity theft to help readers protect themselves and prevent this increasingly common crime. The white paper, titled, "Identity Theft," is available for download at

"Identity theft is a global phenomenon that threatens all of us, which means we all need to become more aware, more vigilant and less trusting to protect ourselves," said Jeff Green, senior vice president of McAfee Avert Labs. "By learning where we are vulnerable, and how and why criminals engage in identity theft, we can then take the necessary precautions to avoid being victimized."

The study shows that identity theft exacts a high toll on national economies around the world. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the annual cost for consumers and businesses in the United States alone reaches $50 billion annually. (1) In the United Kingdom, the Home Office has calculated the cost of identity theft to the British economy at $3.2 billion during the last three years (2) and some estimates from the Australian Centre for Policing Research place the cost of identity theft at $3 billion each year. (3)

The white paper reviews identity theft techniques, from non-technical approaches like dumpster diving to sophisticated keyloggers that monitor computer keyboard keystrokes to steal online usernames and passwords. The report presents high-profile examples of identity theft cases from around the world along with an overview of the types of criminals and organizations that engage in identity theft for profit or to facilitate terrorist acts.

The McAfee Avert Labs white paper concludes with practical guidelines for preventing identity theft and minimizing the risks of being victimized. Key prevention tips for computer users include:

  • Watch out for phishing scams - fraudulent emails and Web sites that impersonate legitimate businesses to trick people into revealing personal information

    • Avoid clicking on links in emails to visit Web sites, but instead manually type a company's correct Web address into the browser

    • Install comprehensive security software or services - including anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall protection - and keep it up to date

    • Use caution when opening email attachments, regardless of who sent them

    • Take care before sharing email addresses

    • Permanently erase computer hard drives before disposing of old computers

    • Make sure Web sites are secure before visiting and providing personal information

    • Use strong passwords

    • Use caution when communicating through instant messaging

    The white paper also includes tips for businesses to protect employees from being victimized. To learn more about cyber threats that can lead to identity theft, visit the McAfee Threat Center:

    McAfee Inc. (NYSE: MFE)

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