Monday, January 12, 2009

Technology can’t prevent Identity Theft

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article (LINK HERE) explaining the problems that exist when we depend on technology to solve social problems. It is a good article and has links to some of the more famous identity theft attacks that have happened recently, including the Barrack Obama twitter hijack listed below. It even lists some of the more basic criminal tactics I have never really classified as identity theft such as

1) Impersonating parking lot attendants to collect fees
2) Impersonating garbage men to collect tips
3) Impersonating people like policemen, security guards and meter readers

The reason I bring this article up, is it reminds me of a white paper I read for my technical review as part of my preliminary exam. The paper was titled “Detecting Social Engineering” and it talked about this method which would allow a computer to analyze a phone conversation and determine if one of the two callers is not telling the truth.

The first way of doing this, comparing the information received to information in a database made sense, but the second method used “natural language processing techniques” to determine if a person is lying. This piece was the part where I felt it start to go into a fairy tale. I find it hard to believe that there is software that can take a text conversation and pick out what are lies in it. Computers don’t have the ability to “think” like humans (yet) and until they do, they can’t be expected to solve a human problem.

I believe the solution to problems such as Identity Theft or Social Engineering do not lie solely in technology or human education, but is some combination of both.

Nate Evans

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