Hack Proofing Your Identity in the Information Age
by Teri Bidwell, Michael Cross and Ryan Russell
Syngress 2002
ISBN 1-931836-51-5.370 pages. $29.95. Index.

Reviewed by  Robert Bruen   September 13, 2002 

Identity theft is a serious problem today made all the easier by the proliferation of personal information in various databases, as well as more use of digital identification and electronic commerce. It does not help us very much that security is lax at the sites that keep our personal information. Impersonating other people is not a recent development, however the methodologies used in the information are new. In the old days, credit card theft could be accomplished by stealing the physical card or stealing mail The credit card companies have tried to protect themselves by sending several related pieces of mail with the hopes that at least one will get through to alert the victim that a card came in the mail. They have also added a card activation feature, along with use profiles and other techniques. Unfortunately, these techniques are not that effective against identity theft, because the use patterns belong the thief, as does the signature (if it gets checked at all).

Armed with a large amount of information gleaned from easily accessible web sites, a ID thief can simply apply for loans, bank accounts, credit cards and whatever using your name. One can even make up fake identification cards using PC technology in the home. Many IDs require a social security number, which is not too difficult to obtain. Several of these fake IDs can get a bank account, which can a real help with the scam when the thief writes a small check that actually clears. A good book on the ins and outs on how this is done, how to protect yourself and what to do about it when it happens to you would be a good thing to have. Unfortunately, this book only has a few chapters directly related this.

The subtitle of this book is "Protecting Your Family on the Internet!" which is not quite the same as protecting yourself from identity theft. The first part of the book does in fact deal with basic concepts of identity theft, but it quickly turns a corner towards protecting your children while they use the net and wraps up with a chapter on personal firewalls. The authors provide good introductions to each of the topics, but the book seems disjointed, suffering from a lack of focus. With a little more work, it could be a good book on protecting your PC on the net, but the title would need to be changed. In fact, this title probably should be changed to something involving protection of a home PC to reflect the main focus of the book.

In any case, the book is an introductory level attempt with some good information, but a somewhat misleading title. The subject, however, is certainly worth a good book.