The alleged "mastermind" behind the largest identity theft case in US history, Albert Gonzalez, 28, has agreed to plead guilty, according to several news reports.
Gonzalez, who is currently in jail, has agreed to plead guilty to 19 federal counts in Massachusetts, with the charges in New York being dropped. He still has charges pending against him in New Jersey.
Gonzalez allegedly helped steal 130 million credit and debit card numbers. He faces 15 to 25 years in prison on the Massachusetts charges alone.
While a large theft, a 2009 Verizon Corporation report said that in 2008 there were 90 confirmed security breaches that resulted in some 285 million compromised records worldwide. So, anyone expecting that the break-up of this id theft ring is going to make a huge dent in reducing identity theft and resulting fraud is likely to be disappointed.
In other security related news, a judge has thrown out three of the four felony charges against Terry Childs, a former San Francisco city computer engineer who was accused in July 2008 of commandeering San Francisco's computer network last year and altering it to deny access to top city administrators.
According to this story in ComputerWorld,
“The charges that were thrown out relate to allegations that Childs quietly placed three modems on a San Francisco city network to have backdoor access to the city network. In dismissing the charges, Judge Kevin McCarthy ruled on Friday that there was insufficient evidence to show that Childs had placed the modems on the network with malicious intent.”
However, a fourth charge, that Childs illegally refused to hand over the passwords to the system to city administrators, was allowed to stand. If convicted, Childs could face 5 years in prison. He has been in prison since last July.
A trial date will be set soon.
Finally, the US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was reportedly a victim of id theft the old fashion way when his wife’s purse, containing her Social Security card, the family checkbook, her credit cards and her IDs, was stolen. Within days, someone was using the checks to withdrawn money from the Bernanke’s checking account.
As it turned out, the Bernanke’s were caught up in a sophisticated id theft ring which hired pick pockets to snatch people's purses and wallets, and then use the information to try to access the victims' bank accounts. The ring was broken up by authorities but only after it stole over $2 million; key members of the id theft ring have been convicted and sent to prison.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.