December 3, 2006
Computer users who type in the same username and password for multiple
sites - such as online banks, travel agencies and booksellers - are at
serious risk from identity thieves, a United Nations agency said.
The International Telecommunication Union, a Geneva-based UN branch,
said businesses and regulators need to find a solution to the spread of
personal information on the internet, possibly by developing more
streamlined identification methods.
At the moment, the ITU said the sheer number of identifiers and
passwords required from computer users made it nearly inevitable that
they repeat passwords.
"This may cause security breaches, and leave them vulnerable to the
machinations of identity thieves ever increasing in number and
inventiveness," it said in its 2006 internet report, released ahead of a
major meeting of governments and industry officials in Hong Kong.
"The lack of coordination in identification systems is a source of
growing inconvenience to users and needs to be addressed rapidly," it
The agency also highlighted risks to privacy from widespread internet
use, especially from marketers tracking the preferences and traffic of
browsers across a variety of sites.
If people have confidence in the way such information is stored and
used, the ITU said there might be no problem from the proliferation of
"cookies" and other data-capturing tools, often used for targeted online
But it warned that a breakdown in consumer trust could impede the future
expansion of internet-based commerce.
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