Why Don’t People Care About Cyber Security?

August 18, 2015 at 9:27 am 1 comment

There are an increasingly large number of examples of  America  changing from a “Can do” to a “Can’t do” or “Won’t do” nation.

The latest example is the news that “more than twice as many taxpayer accounts were hit by identity thieves than the agency first reported, with hackers gaining access to as many as 330,000 accounts and attempting to break into an additional 280,000.” (WSJ http://www.wsj.com/articles/irs-says-cyberattacks-more-extensive-than-previously-reported-1439834639).  Many of you will undoubtedly deal with  the consequences of these breaches first hand.

The IRS’s underbelly is its system for accessing consumer tax information online.   We learned earlier this year that hackers had broken into the system and gained access to taxpayer info but what we learned yesterday was that the break in was much more extensive and far-reaching than the IRS first believed.  The type of information the hackers gained access to is ideal for establishing a fake identity. It potentially includes   line-by-line tax return information and income reported to the IRS.

(The IRS points out on its website that the break ins underscore the need for consumers to “think twice before posting publicly personal or financial information on social media or the Internet.”  As someone who proudly doesn’t have a Facebook account this last bit of advice makes sense to me but I’ve given up thinking that people can be kept from informing  hundreds of their closest friends  about how they are getting through their day.)

It used to be that when America was confronted with great challenges it confronted them head on.  I’m thinking of the Erie Canal, WW II and the Race to the Moon just to name a few. In contrast, where is the resolve to truly confront cybersecurity threats? According to Frank Abagnale  Jr. of “Catch Me If You Can” fame, who spoke at the Association’s convention a few months ago,  there are things that the government could do but isn’t doing to better protect the American public’s information.

And there is much more going on here than bureaucratic inertia.    Congress still hasn’t passed meaningful cybersecurity legislation that breaks down barriers to information sharing and makes all industries, not just financial service providers, legally responsible for guarding against cyber theft.

Meanwhile the American public seems indifferent to the chronic invasion of its privacy by hackers.  If terrorists compromised our computer networks as successfully as the Chinese have there would be calls for sanctions, Congressional hearings would be held and presidential candidates would be questioned about more important things than what they think of  Donald Trump.  Stories about cyber break-ins hardly get noticed for more than a day or two.

Cyber crime makes every business less efficient and more expensive to run.  It makes every consumer vulnerable to theft and makes us all less safe.  Can it be prevented? Not entirely but it certainly can be deterred.

In the meantime regulators continue to prod banks and credit unions to prioritize cybersecurity even though the best efforts of every financial institution won’t solve a thing in the absence of a comprehensive government led defense to protect our personal information.

So it goes.

Entry filed under: General. Tags: , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jerry  |  August 18, 2015 at 9:49 am

    Good post but one correction… it’s Frank Abagnale Jr


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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., Senior Vice President, General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association. In addition, although Henry strives to give his readers useful and accurate information on a broad range of subjects, many of which involve legal disputes, his views are not a substitute for legal advise from retained counsel.

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