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Systems Plan for Combating Identity Theft - A Theoretical Framework

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Systems Plan for Combating Identity Theft - A Theoretical Framework

Abstract

The incidences of identity theft have increased substantially in the Internet age. Increasing news reports of bank/credit cards theft, assumed identity for economical and criminal activities has created a growing concern for individuals, businesses, and governments. As a result, it's become an important and urgent task for organizations to find managerial and technical solutions to combat identity fraud and theft. Solutions to identity theft problem must deal with multiple parties and coordinated efforts must be made among concerned parties. This paper is to provide a comprehensive view of identity theft issue from system planner's perspective. The roles of identity owner, issuer, checker, and protector, are examined to provide a starting point for organizational and information systems design.
J. Serv. Sci. & Management, 2008, 1: 143-152
Published Online August 2008 in SciRes (www.SRPublishing.org/journal/jssm
)
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
Systems Plan for Combating Identity Theft – A Theoretical
Framework
*
Shao-Bo Ji
1, 2
,
Shawn Smith-Chao
1
& Qing-Fei Min
2
1
Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1S 5B6
2
School of Management, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian 116024, Liaoning, China
E-mail: sji@business.carleton.ca
ABSTRACT
The Internet has made it easier for individuals and organizations to communicate and conduct business online. At the
same time, personal, commercial, and government information has become a target for identity theft. The incidences of
identity theft have increased substantially in the Internet age. Increasing news reports of bank/credit cards theft, as-
sumed identity for economical and criminal activities has created a growing concern for individuals, businesses, and
governments. As a result, it’s become an important and urgent task for us to find managerial and technical solutions to
combat identity fraud and theft. Solutions to identity theft problem must deal with multiple parties and coordinated ef-
forts must be made among concerned parties. This paper is to provide a comprehensive view of identity theft issue from
system planner’s perspective. The roles of identity owner, issuer, checker, and protector, are examined to provide a
starting point for organizational and information systems design.
Keywords: identity theft, information system plan, inter-organizational coordination
1. Introduction
Identify theft problem has been one of the major concerns
for individuals, businesses, and governments in the Inter-
net age. Businesses and governments have been trying to
find solutions through legislations, law enforcement, and
new technologies. In academic community, the research
into the issue of identity management is generally lacking.
Most researches have been focusing on technological
and/or legal issues. Those researches have dealt with the
identity problem from an operational and narrowed per-
spective, rather than conceptual and systematic viewpoint
[1, 2].
Identity theft is “…the misuse of another individual’s
personal information to commit fraud” [3]. Within re-
search community, there seems to be no consensus of
what identity theft is. For example, Sproule and Archer [4]
gave one of the definitions for identity theft as “crimes
involving use of a real person’s identity”. Others define
identity theft as “false identifiers, false or fraudulent
documents, or a stolen identity in the commission of a
crime” [1] and as “the unauthorized collection and
fraudulent use of someone else’s personal information”
[2]. For the purpose of this paper, the definition suggested
in [3] is adopted.
The seriousness of identity theft is difficult to deter-
mine, since the crime may be undetected for a long period
of time, and there is no one centralized database for iden-
tity theft. Anecdotal evidences and statistics drawn from a
number of sources do indicate, however, that the problem
is growing in many parts of the world, particularly in
North American, i.e., United States and Canada, and the
problem has quickly become a global phenomenon (see
for example reports at www.ftc.gov and www.rcmp.ca as
well as the recently released The President’s Identity
Theft Task Force’s Report [3]). Consequently, tremen-
dous efforts have been made over the past decade by gov-
ernments, businesses, and academic research community
of various disciplines to understand the issues and to find
solutions for combating the problems from the aspects of
social and technological, legislative and law enforcement,
and business and management. As a result, a number of
comprehensive research framework, model, and practical
solution have been proposed and the results of the re-
search initiatives are emerging [3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. In develop-
ing countries such as China, although there is a lack of
official statistics, over the past decade, the amount of
identity theft related reports, such as cell-phone short
messages fraud and fake identity cards and seals, has
been on the rise significantly due to the wide spread use
of the Internet and mobile devices such as the cell-phone
[8]. A comprehensive literature review in identity theft
research can be found in Newman and McNally [9].
Identity thieves use a number of techniques to acquire
data from individuals. Unsophisticated, but effective tech-
*
This study is funded by Ontario Research Network for Electronic
Commerce (ORNEC), Ontario, Canada.
144 Shao-bo Ji,
Shawn Smith-Chao & Qing-fei Min
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
niques include the theft of wallets, cell-phone, and lap-
tops. Credit card statements or other documents can be
taken from trash or intercepted in the mail. One of the
most effective means of theft is called “Social Engineer-
ing”, which involves the thief contacting the victim di-
rectly, and convincing them to disclose passwords or
other information by posing as agents of ID issuing agen-
cies. Victims are also targeted over the Internet, through
social engineering by email message or by intercepting
and capturing financial or identity information while it is
being transferred online. The information of a large num-
ber of individuals can be captured at one time by hacking
into and stealing data from financial or government data-
bases, a crime which has drawn significant media atten-
tion. In China, due to the lack of individual’s privacy
concerns and the lack of mechanisms of public protection,
the situations seem to be more serious. For instance,
many such individual’s information as name, date of birth,
identity card number, and cell-phone number are openly
published in the public domain such as the Internet, post-
ers, and internal documentations.
Combating identity theft requires actions from multiple
parties. It requires technological, legal and law enforce-
ment, economical, and managerial solutions. Solving
identity theft problem must deal with multiple parties and
coordination among the parties since the confirmation of
individual’s identity often involves multiple steps, multi-
ple methods, and with multiple parties. This is especially
important in the virtual environment where the verifica-
tion, validation, and authentication of identity are con-
ducted online and virtually no face-to-face identity con-
firmation. To this end, the US government has taken a
major step in dealing with the issue. The President’s Iden-
tity Theft Task Force’s Report entitled “Combating Iden-
tity Theft: A Strategic Plan” is an important blueprint that
guides government agencies, businesses, and individuals
to combating identity theft [3]. Released in April 2007,
the report not only describes and summarizes the identity
theft stages and sequences but also, more importantly,
recommends and proposes an important strategy from the
perspective of identity theft prevention, consumer protec-
tion, and law enforcement. As outlined in the report, the
occurrences of identity theft generally take place in three
stages: 1) the acquisition of a victim’s personal informa-
tion by the identity thief; 2) the attempt of misuse of sto-
len information by the identity thief; and 3) the identity
thief committed crime and the victims suffer the loss
(emotional and/or financial). The reports made a number
of recommendations which focus on the four areas: 1)
identity theft prevention by keeping individual consumer
data safe, in public and private sectors as well as individ-
ual consumers, through better data security measure and
awareness education; 2) preventing identity thieves from
using consumer data to steal individual’s identity through
authentication and comprehensive record keeping mecha-
nism of private sector use of social security numbers; 3)
the creation of assistance program of identity theft; 4)
stronger law enforcement through National Identity Theft
Law Enforcement Center, better coordination and infor-
mation intelligence sharing between law enforcement and
private sector, and better coordination with foreign law
enforcement. The report provides an excellent starting
point for government agencies, private businesses, and
consumers in combating identity theft. It is particularly
useful for public policy formulation. Similarly, a number
of studies have been conducted to address the issue from
consumer’s perspective in the financial service sector [5],
the policy options in coping with identity theft [6], and
the general description and trends in different regions of
the US [7]. For example, Mayer investigated “the state of
consumer self-protection with respect to financial pri-
vacy” [5]. Using content analysis, field experiment, and
telephone survey, he identified various advice offered
from government, business (nonprofit and for profit or-
ganizations), and financial journalists and concluded that
consumers are general aware of the problems and they are
facing the trade-off between keeping their privacy and
spending money in protecting their identity. The study
suggested that more efforts are needed for governments
and businesses to create an environment that provides
consumers efficient methods of protecting their identity.
Other studies explored the potential solution for combat-
ing identity theft that goes beyond existing recommenda-
tions and practices. For example, Eisenstein suggested
that “the existing approach to combating identity theft
will not work” [6]. Applying system dynamic modeling
technique, Eisenstein proposed and tested a model that
explained the motivations and actions of various players
of identity theft. He concluded and suggested that an “in-
expensive security freezes” can be an effective way of
reducing identity theft.
While aforementioned US government strategic plan
and recommendations suggested in various studies are
useful in dealing with public policies, understanding the
nature of identity theft, and finding solutions in combat-
ing identity theft, they are limited in the sense of covering
the scope of the issues. More works have yet to be done
to implement the recommendations included in the US
Strategic Plan. As stated earlier, the nature of the identity
theft is identity thieves’ misuse of another individual’s
personal data. As a result, information technology and
information systems play a special role in the process. As
a powerful tool, information system and associated tech-
nologies can be designed in such a way that it can facili-
tate the process of combating identity theft. This study
complements the US Strategic Plan by providing opera-
tional level recommendations from the viewpoint of sys-
tems analysis and design. It pays special attention to
multi-party coordination in combating identity theft
which is strongly recommended by the report.
From system analysis and design perspective, under-
standing identity theft problem and designing managerial
and technological systems to combat identity theft re-
Systems Plan for Combating Identity Theft – A Theoretical Framework 145
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
quires a holistic and comprehensive framework. Specifi-
cally, identifying key players and their associated roles
and relationships is an important first step. In this aspect,
two frameworks are suited for such purpose. The first
framework is Wang et al.’s [10] contextual framework
for combating identity theft. The second is a framework
proposed by Zachman [11]. Wang et al.’s framework
identified five main roles involved in the ownership, issu-
ance, use, protection, and abuse of identity information.
These roles are identity owner, identity issuer, identity
checker, identity protector, and identity thief. They are
linked by a web of relationships which identify the prin-
ciple responsibilities and interactions of the members of
the identity verification, validation, and authentication
chain. Zachman’s framework defines the interfaces and
the integration of all of the components of a system by
perspective and aspect. The framework has been applied
in many applications and enterprises and has been pro-
posed for part of the US government’s internal enterprise
architecture [12].
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the
Zachman framework can be applied to the conceptual
model by Wang et al. [10] to provide a comprehensive
and complete view of the identity theft problem.
2. Identity Theft Conceptual Framework
Preventing identity theft are the responsibilities of many
individuals in many organizations. As outlined in Wang
et al.’s [10], there are primarily four stakeholders and one
aggressor. The focus of identity theft issue is the identity
owner, the person the data actually identifies and to
whom the identity information and documents are pos-
sessed or assigned. The owner’s physical, biographical,
psychological, and/or financial data is created and stored
on the identity document or database. The identity issuer,
normally a government institution or financial institution,
acquires, creates, and produces these information and
documents. When the identity owner wishes to make
transactions using their identity information or documents,
they are checked by an identity checker, which is a per-
son or device responsible for determining the validity of
his/her identity information and documents. From infor-
mation processing viewpoint, this process typically go
through three stages: verification, validation, and authen-
tication. The checker works with the identity issuer, and
often these two roles are accomplished in the same or-
ganization. For example, banks have their own identity
checker to validate the owners of accounts. The identity
protector is responsible for determining if the security of
the identity chain has been breached, and for prosecuting
and punishing identity thieves. The protector works with
issuers and the checkers to maintain a vigilant guard, but
has a largely post-incident rapport with owners. Finally,
the identity thief/abuser is, of course, any party attempt-
ing to misuse, copy, or steal the identity owner’s informa-
tion or documents.
Things
Processes
Connectivity
People
Timing
Motivation
Planner
List of
important
things to
the
business
List of
processes
business
performs
List of
locations in
which the
business
operates
List of
business
responsibilities
List of
events
significant
to the
business
List of
business
goals/strategy
Owner
Semantic
model
Business
process
model
Logistics
network
Work flow
model
Master
schedule
Business plan
Designer
Logical
data model
Application
architecture
Distributed
system
architecture
Human
interface
architecture
Processing
structure
Business rule
model
Builder
Physical
data model
System
design
Configuratio
n design
Presentation
architecture
Control
structure
Rule design
Subcontractor
Data
definition
Program
Network
architecture
Security
architecture
Timing
definition
Rule
specification
Functioning
Enterprise
Data Process Network Organization Schedule Strategy
Figure 1. Zachman framework of information system architecture
146 Shao-bo Ji,
Shawn Smith-Chao & Qing-fei Min
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
The importance of such framework is that it identifies
the main parties and the interconnections between the
various parties. This is critical since many identity theft
experts have listed a lack of coordination of relevant par-
ties as a key factor in the proliferation of identity theft
crime [1]. Coordinated solutions include the use of shared
identity databases [1, 15, 16], international laws for iden-
tity theft and fraud [1], cohesive national law enforce-
ment programs [1, 2], and trusted authenticators [17].
3. Zachman’s System Framework
First published in IBM Systems Journal in 1987, the
framework is considered as a “logical construct (or archi-
tecture) for defining and controlling the interfaces and the
integration of all of the components of a system.” [11]
Shown in Figure 1, the framework is composed of a ma-
trix of six columns and six rows. The rows represent the
main perspectives (of different roles) for viewing and
framing the system: planner, owner, designer, builder,
subcontractor, and functioning enterprise. The columns
represent aspects (of different views) of the system:
things, processes, connectivity, people, timing, and moti-
vation.
For any system design and implementation, various
parties are involved. First, the system planner initiates the
conceptualization of the system, and then determines its
purpose and scope based on system owner’s requests.
Then, the system designer, the architect of the system,
takes the owner’s requirements for the system and design
the system according to the technical and economical
feasibility set out by the planner. The builder is responsi-
ble for the actual realization and implementation of the
system. The builder may employ subcontractors to do the
actual construction and assembly of the system. The final
result of the process is the functioning enterprise. Each
perspective in the framework (other than the functioning
enterprise) can be embodied by a person, a group, an or-
ganization, or another system.
The rows of the system correspond to what (things),
how (processes), where (connectivity), who (people),
when (timing), and why (motivation), and. Things repre-
sent the materials or structures that the system is com-
posed of. Processes represent system’s functional specifi-
cations. Connectivity shows where the linkages exist in
the system and the locations of process flows. People
refer to individuals who perform their tasks and assume
their responsibility. Timing indicates when events are
expected to occur. Motivation refers to the motivating
elements of the system such as the purposes and inten-
tions of the system owner. The framework provides a tool
for us to address main system questions and main per-
spectives of all relevant parties. The intersections of each
row and column are called artifact and they are filled with
the relevant diagrams, lists, or structures. Examples of
artifacts used when designing systems architecture are
shown in Figure 1. An artifact can be modeled in a vari-
ety of means, using one or more tools, as long as the con-
tents match the purpose of the aspect, and the relevant
perspective.
4. A Framework for Identity Theft Issue
A complete Zachman’s framework for each identity role
and their interactions will require the knowledge of iden-
tity management, resources, as well as system and organ-
izational system requirements. Detailed analysis of each
cells and intersections (6 rows and 6 columns and their
intersections) will require a much more lengthy discus-
sion. For the purpose of this paper, we focus on the role
of system planner. Reviewing the planner’s role for each
member of the identity chain addresses many of the key
aspects of the identity theft problem, and can be helpful
for organizational and system designers to understand
system requirements, organization or information, and to
manage the identity and to prevent identity theft from
occurring. In this section, each role will be explored using
system planner’s role.
4.1. Identity Owner
The identity owner is the originating source of the iden-
tity chain. Though the issuer is responsible for the deter-
mination and creation of all identity information and
documents, the process requires the existence of an owner
to initiate the identity definition process. In a special
situation, identity thieves can create the identity informa-
tion and documents based on a fictitious person or a dead
person. The source data for the identity information and
document often describes the attributes possessed by the
identity owner such as age, date of birth, addresses and
additional data that are assigned by the identity issuer
such as a bank account or identification numbers. Usabil-
ity, security, and privacy are typically the main concerns
of the owners. These artifacts are somewhat paradoxical,
as ease of use is not generally associated with increased
security and privacy. Tradeoffs are often required. This
however represents a key need for owners, and the re-
sponsibility for meeting this need is shared with the issuer.
Documents which are cumbersome to hold and use are
not attractive. Similarly, documents which are not secure
are not attractive. Input from both the owner and issuer is
necessary to balance these two concerns.
Privacy is a real concern to the owners. Although re-
lated to security, privacy indicates the desire for the
owner to minimize the exposure of their information to
the issuer, and to other members of the identity chain.
Issuers have to consider the privacy concerns of owners,
they want to maximize the amount of data they collect
from owners, to support the needs of their identity infor-
mation and documents. Privacy is a key artifact for the
owner, and may be a weakest point in the identity chain.
In most western countries, some owners’ desire to main-
tain privacy will prevent them from entering the chain at
all. Addressing the needs of these owners is difficult,
Systems Plan for Combating Identity Theft – A Theoretical Framework 147
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
since suspicion and a lack of trust often prevent the issuer
or other identity chain member from making meaningful
contact with the owner. The identity protector and infor-
mation security technology plays a key role here.
The identity owner establishes the identity that will be
used and stored in identity database and shown on docu-
ments. The owners collaborate with the issuers to create
data and documents, and also to update or change data as
their personal information change. The creation and up-
dating processes are important, as the validity of identity
documents rest on their accuracy of the data within. Ex-
amining the intersection of things and processes, we see
that these processes must be easy, secure, and private for
them to fulfill the owners’ needs.
To meet these requirements, owners need to use their
identity data and documents responsibly and to protect
their own information and to report any abuses. Irrespon-
sible document use can obviate any security procedures
put into place, and place the owner beyond the reach of
identity protectors, and even possibly in opposition to
them or other members of the identity chain. Unfortu-
nately, the fraud detection and reporting process is one of
the weakest and least developed processes in the identity
chain [9, 13, 14]. Although identity issuers, checkers, and
protectors all play roles in this process, the owner can
usually detect abuses first. Proper security procedures by
the checker and issuer can prevent transgression, however,
once they have occurred, they will remain hidden unless
until discovered by the owner, often more than a year
later [2].
The owner needs to use their identity information and
identity documents at a number of locations. Transaction
points represent any places (physical or virtual) where an
identity owner and identity checker interact. These in-
clude retail stores, issuer checkpoints and offices, gov-
ernment offices, online buying sites, and even at home.
Home as a location has special significance, since this is
where identity information and documents are stored.
This is a common breach point for criminals who acquire
information about the owner and their identity from trash,
or theft of mails, or the physical documents [2]. Identity
information and documents are also required for work,
for verification of identity, or for hiring or human re-
source purposes. Work locations and databases are poten-
tial areas of threats and point of penetration since these
systems are maintained or monitored by fewer and less
stringent security systems than identity issuer sites [18].
Employee records are in fact the number one source for
identity data for thieves [19]. Increasingly employers
have become the targets for legal action, due to improper
storage and handling of employee data [20].
Maintaining the security of identity information and
documents is one of the two responsibilities (of people)
assigned to the owners. This responsibility is shared with
identity checkers and identity issuers. However, the pri-
mary target for most identity theft is the owner [13]. Ac-
cording to one report, over 50% of identity victims know
the identity of the person who defrauded them [13]. Own-
ers should ensure that they maintain physical control of
their identity documents as have a strong knowledge of
where their identity data is being used and stored, but for
most people this is at best a difficult task. Due to large
number of transaction points for identity information and
documents used, often people are not aware of the spread
of their identity data.
The integrity of the identity networks that are built
around individuals rests also on the owners presenting
truthful and accurate identity data about themselves.
When owners lie or falsely present their data, they move
beyond the reach of the security procedures of checkers
and issuers, and the legal reach of identity protectors.
Fraudulent behavior on the part of owners is another area
that needs attention for research [21, 22]. Though some
identity checks are done by inspection (looking at signa-
tures and photo identification), many are done electroni-
cally. Electronic checks rely on having consistent data
throughout. As discussed later, data dispersion is a key
concern for the identity chain process, as this increases
the chances of inaccuracies, and improper updates. Cen-
tralization of data simplifies both the checking process,
and decreases the number of inaccuracies, leading to
drastic improvements in the costs of managing customer
data [23, 24].
The motivations of the identity owner are straightfor-
ward. Owners want to be able to use their transaction data,
while maintaining the security of their identity informa-
tion. An identity control and use process that can address
and improve both concerns would be optimal. Develop-
ments in biometrics technologies may facilitate the ability
for owners to safely use their identity data and documents.
Work in this field has encountered a great deal of resis-
tance due to privacy concerns by groups and individuals
[25, 26]. Proposed solutions must allay these fears with-
out compromising the distinct advantages of biometric
identification. It must be realized, however, that even
biometric solutions are not foolproof, unless care is taken
to maintain security of biometric data, and cooperation
among the identity chain members [27, 28, 29].
4.2. Identity Issuer
Identity issuer is the force behind the identity process.
Government agencies, financial institutions, employers,
retailers, and professional organizations create identity
information and documents. The information and docu-
ments are often critical or even central to their businesses.
Credit card companies for example thrive on the transac-
tions made with their cards. Banks maintain and operate
financial accounts for owners, drawing income from fees
and investments. Governments are mandated with provid-
ing services that require identification, and track indi-
viduals for the purposes of security and taxation.
148 Shao-bo Ji,
Shawn Smith-Chao & Qing-fei Min
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
The identity issuer must guard the interests of owners.
They need to coordinate with identity protectors to ensure
the security of the data. Although the identity issuers have
a number of unique artifacts, they share a substantial
number with other members of the identity chain.
Issuers hold the repositories for identity data and create
identity documents. They support their businesses by en-
suring that transactions are secure and that any losses to
themselves or other members are minimized. Credibility
is a key artifact with respect to issuers concerns. Owners
that do not have faith in the security of their identity data
will abandon the use of the issuer’s documents [30, 31].
In addition, identity checkers that find the verification
process cumbersome or insecure may not recognize or
accept the identity documents.
Identity issuers handle a number of processes related to
their documents and the owners’ data. They produce the
documents themselves and often create the identifiers
used in transactions with the documents. Maintaining,
updating, and altering identity data is also done by the
issuers. Issuers are also a likely party to find abusers, by
examining data looking for suspect transactions, and by
tracking bad verification attempts. Issuers are also part-
ners with identity protection services, working to protect
other identity chain members.
An important but overlooked process for issuers is the
responsible use of identity documents. Particularly for
governments and financial bureaus, a call has been made
to clarify what these organizations can and are allowed to
do with the data they control [32, 33, 34, 35]. Examining
the overlap between things and processes, it can be seen
that the desire to increase revenue, minimize loss, and
exposure must be balanced against credibility issues.
Revenues can often be increased by issuers by distribut-
ing the information they hold to third parties. They can
also attempt to minimize loss by coordinating and distrib-
uting data with checkers and protectors. For example,
verification through biometric identifiers or cross valida-
tion through multiple identifiers can improve the chances
that the issuer or checker cannot be the victim of fraud,
but this puts the owner at risk, which is exposing greater
and more sensitive data in order to verify their identity.
Though owners may use identity documents at a num-
ber of transaction points, the creation, verification, and
update of these documents occurs at branches of the issu-
ing organization. Though the contact may be physical or
virtual, all transaction will flow through these nodes.
Even identity checking is done by contacting the onsite
databases of the issuing organization. This allows the
issuer to ensure that validation procedures are consistent,
and that validation data is centralized.
Centralization and consistency fit with the issuer’s role
of safeguarding identity data. Although owners are the
custodians of the actual identity documents, identity data
security is shared by both owners and issuers. Other
document processes, such as creation, maintenance, and
destruction are handled exclusively by issuers.
Maintenance tasks include updating identity data, re-
placing damaged, lost, or stolen identity documents.
Document destruction may be in response to theft at-
tempts, or if the owner no longer wishes to interact with a
particular user. Institutional and government issuers may
also require document destruction if the personal leaves
their jurisdictional realm or due to death. The topic of
document maintenance and destruction and its impact on
the identity cycle has not been extensively researched,
however the media has addressed the issue [36].
The issuer is the most frequent contact with identity
data and documents, due to their control of the actual data
repositories, and the necessity for use of this data for up-
date, verification, and creation events. Issuers are also the
first contacts with owners who are seeking identity docu-
ments. This particular event is relevant, as the actual vali-
dation and assertion of the identity of an owner occurs at
this time. Errors in collection of identity data, or success-
ful fraud on the part of the owner can create an inaccurate
identity, which can have a long-term impact on all further
transactions. Often identity documents are validated
based on other identity documents are data. Errors can
compound, and allow identity thieves to breach security
processes. With the creation of a single identity document
(called a breeder document, an identity thief can spawn
numerous other documents, solidifying their fraudulent
identity. The longer the chain that is spawned, the more
difficult it may be to detect the original error or fraud [1].
The motivations of identity issuers vary based on the na-
ture of the organization.
Institutional and governmental bodies require identity
documents to identify and track individuals. Documents
of this type include birth certificates, driving licenses,
health service cards, and passports. These documents may
or may not have attached services or privileges. These
documents are the most common breeder documents as
the institutional weight adds credibility to the identity
document. This is also why these are the documents of
choice for identity thieves, as a successful intrusion in
this early stage enables a large number of other docu-
ments to be obtained [1]. Fraudulent documents that are
not institutional are more easily detected, as they lack the
necessary and often required supporting documentation.
This is why the Internet crime has proliferated, as it en-
ables criminals to secure non-institutional documents and
use them without supporting institutional data. Validation
using this data can help curb this type of fraud and theft.
Biometric identification can also act as a strong deterrent
to online crime, but this has not been implemented exten-
sively online at this time.
Non-institutional issuers generally operate to support
their businesses, and often for financial gain. Identity
documents of this type include credit cards, bank transac-
Systems Plan for Combating Identity Theft – A Theoretical Framework 149
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
tion documents (cards and books), membership cards, and
frequent transaction cards. Documents of this type usually
have an attached service or privilege, and often incur fees
for use. Though these documents offer benefits for users
to attract adoption, the primary purpose of these docu-
ments is for the financial gain of the issuer. As such, the
credibility and security of these documents is a key con-
cern for the issuer. The issuer often suffers monetary or
credibility loss if a breach is successful. For this reason
the issuer will often employ identity protectors them-
selves rather than relying on institutional protectors.
It’s worthwhile to mention here is the fact that many
western countries such as Canada and UK, as a result of
9/11, have started examining the issue of creating na-
tional identity card. For example, the British government
passed the British Identity Cards Act in 2006 [39]. It will
help government to better manage the identity data. At
the same time, the implementation of the Act raised many
concerns due to potential misuse and privacy breaches.
Other countries such as Canada abandoned the suggestion
of creating national identity database due to its citizen’s
privacy concerns.
4.3. Identity Checker
The identity checker locates at the central point of the
identity chain. They process transactions using the iden-
tity owner’s data and documents, and verifying their au-
thenticity with the identity issuer. The identity checker,
however, is the party with low incentives to work with
the other identity chain members. In most cases, they
have little to gain by accepting greater responsibility.
However, identity checker is actually the party best suited
for preventing fraud and theft.
Identity checker is mainly motivated by financial gain
in case of commercial organizations, or protection of fi-
nancial loss and prevention of crimes in case of govern-
ment agencies. Owners use their identity information and
documents to obtain goods and services from the identity
checker, who uses information to establish identity, and
to process the payments. It is certainly in checker’s best
interest to ensure the credibility of its transaction process,
and to guarantee the security of the owner’s identity. This
conflict of motivation leads to a central conflict in the
identity chain. For example, databases are critical to al-
low retailers to respond to customer needs. These data-
bases contain identity data about their customers, some of
which is collected without the knowledge or explicit con-
sent of owners.
The data is a prime target for thieves, as these data-
bases are a far more efficient means of collecting identity
data than targeting owners directly. The identities of the
customers can be accessed from a single database. Iden-
tity thieves often have access identity information within
checker’s organizations since they know the existing se-
curity protocols or lack thereof. Until recently, incentives
do not exist for identity checker organizations to monitor
their employees. However, the introduction of the recent
legislation makes businesses liable for losses from em-
ployee theft or careless safeguarding of identity data [20].
It is therefore critical that checkers consider their role as a
guardian. Checkers who are focused solely on material
gains will overlook the necessity of this role, and may
even actively sell identity data to the third parties. They
may also be less careful in their processing procedures of
identify data.
Verification procedures often require confirmation
from secondary identity sources, a process that is often
ignored by checkers who are not motivated to follow
these procedures, with a few exceptions such as credit
card transaction. Additionally, identity documents often
can only verify that the person who is holding the identity
document is who they say they are. It cannot be used to
validate the actual rights of the holder with respect to the
issuer [1]. Possessing a forged document can allow an
identity thief to get approval with respect to identity
checkers, since the biometric data will seem to be correct.
Checkers and issuers must still be careful to ensure that
the identity document holder can actually be validated as
a recognized recipient of the benefits conferred by pos-
sessing the document [37]. This is a key issue with re-
spect to future identity theft proposals.
The early detection of a thief can prevent loss to the
owner or issuer. Issuers often require patterns of transac-
tions to identify thieves, or the commission of a starkly
inappropriate transaction. Smart thieves however can
elude these means of detection. The issuer relies heavily
on owners and checkers to report crimes, but both parties
have low reporting rates [13, 38].
4.4. Identity Protector
The identity protector is an important member, typically
with certain authority and power, of the identity chain.
The protectors may often interact with issuers and with
owners, and even checkers, their responsibilities and
processes are unique. The motivations of the protectors
are not directly related to the transaction processes, and
the existence of the protector role relies on the existence
of identity fraud and theft. Protectors are generally the
last party to have a presence in a particular transaction
chain, or identity issue. They maintain lists of offenders
and complaints, and use these to investigate abuses. They
also compile statistics which can be used to gauge which
transaction points, methods, and documents are most at
risk for intrusion by thieves. Where possible, protectors
will prosecute offenders, or will at least create incident
reports that can be tracked for future use.
In addition to the reactive processes, they also develop
methods to detect identity fraud and theft and they create
legislation which can be enforced. Although identity theft
is not a new crime, its proliferation on the Internet is a
recent development. The protector role is evolving, and
150 Shao-bo Ji,
Shawn Smith-Chao & Qing-fei Min
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
has been criticized as being indifferent in the past. Iden-
tity checkers were also ambivalent since the costs were
passed on to the issuer or the owner. There was very little
protection afforded to identity owners, since the identity
issuer would often make it difficult for the owner to re-
coup their losses. The introduction of Identity Theft Fed-
eral Law in the United States and subsequent other laws
have rectified many of these issues, giving owners more
protection, issuers more responsibility, and protectors the
legal basis to prosecute thieves [9, 35]. Still, many crimes
are not reported. This makes protectors at a difficult situa-
tion. Issuers and checkers often do not report crimes and
losses, fearing it may tarnish their credibility. Instead they
deal with the theft as a “cost of doing business” [14].
Owners themselves are often to blame, as only 26% of
owners report incidents to the police [13].
One of the greatest challenges in the legal arena is that
the Internet is global, and therefore requires global laws
and global protectors. At this time, such agencies and
laws are not in place. A comprehensive system of global
laws and a policing agency with global jurisdiction will
be required to successfully curb and control identity fraud
and theft in the future [1].
Protectors enter the transaction chain usually when the
owner or issuer contacts them. It is possible that protec-
tors may be employed by issuers, and also be located at
issuer sites. The protectors are also likely to be monitor-
ing actual transaction points, looking for abuses. In gen-
eral however, owners or issuers bring their problems to
protectors who then act upon that information.
The identity protector has a number of important roles.
Most protectors use passive protection. Though the pro-
tector will produce materials that attempt to assist the
owner in the protection of the identity, they will not take
action with regards to a particular owner’s plight until
they are notified that something has gone wrong. Active
protectors will take actions to prevent identity theft or
fraud from occurring, and may actually review and ob-
serve transaction points to determine if underlying trans-
action patterns are suspicious. Active protectors will often
contact the owner first, querying their transaction activi-
ties, and warning owners of potential identity security
breaches.
The passive type of protector is associated with gov-
ernmental and judicial agencies which have the potential
to access data within large jurisdictions, but do not have a
business or legal framework with which they can actively
pursue issues. Privacy concerns of individuals are main
concern in this respect. Although government agencies
may have nearly unlimited access to owner identity data,
access to that data must be justified within a strict legal
framework. Passive identity protectors are opposed by
other types of protectors including privacy protectors, and
government watchdog groups. Finally, as governmental
or judicial agencies supported by taxpayer funds or dona-
tions, passive protectors do not have established business
models that bring returns based on the quality or vigi-
lance of their protection.
Active protectors however, are usually in the employ
of the identity issuer or possibly identity checker. These
groups work to prevent breaches in the security measures
of the established identity chain, and to seal these
breaches as quickly as possible. They will monitor previ-
ous and possible even live transactions, looking for pat-
terns that might indicate fraud or theft. They will also
contact owners directly, when anomalies are detected, or
if certain transaction thresholds are reached.
Active protectors have a very different perspective and
orientation, as the success of the endeavors will often
save their employers and benefactors from financial or
reputation loss. An important difference between passive
and active protectors is those active protectors usually
work in the best interests of the issuer rather than passive
protectors who work in the best interests of the owner.
Active protectors will therefore often investigate owner
issues, including potential misuse or error of identity data
or documents. Passive protectors will only become in-
volved in these cases based on legal infraction.
Active and passive protectors do work together how-
ever, to fulfill additional protector roles. Passive protec-
tors are responsible for law development and enforcement.
They make laws to protect other members of the identity
chain. They also determine punishments for offenders and
carry out the enforcement process. Passive protectors rely
heavily on active protectors in the execution of these re-
sponsibilities, and active protectors provide evidence
used in the prosecution of offenders. Active protectors
also provide information and advice to passive protectors
who then covert this into policy and law. The role is not
one-sided however as passive protectors ensure that there
is a balance between the interests of issuers, checkers,
and owners. They also provide a voice for owners, when
the protection system fails them, and owners find them-
selves in opposition to active protectors.
5. Conclusions
The importance of Wang et al.’s and Zachman’s frame-
works for system planning to combat identity theft is that
it provides a comprehensive view of various roles and
their relationships in the identity chain. We believe that
combating identity theft will require coordination of iden-
tity owner, issuer, checker, and protector. We hope our
work will provide a starting point for organization and
system designers to include and consider issues relating
to identity theft when designing its systems. Specifically,
we believe that it’s necessary for owners, issuers, check-
ers, and protectors to collaborate. The system must be
designed to facilitate the collaborations. With the devel-
opment of information and communication technologies,
many of the collaborative tasks can be automated. Some
tasks, however, must rely on human interventions and
Systems Plan for Combating Identity Theft – A Theoretical Framework 151
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
manual processes. System planners (either designing an
information system or designing organizational rules,
policies, and procedure) can benefit from the framework
and associated issues discussed in this paper. For organ-
izational designers of identity issuers, checkers and even
protectors, the issues discussed in this paper can be used
as a discussion base when formulating rules with regard
to identity information management. For information sys-
tem designers, the issues discussed here can serve as a
tool for system planning and system requirements. It may
be helpful for them to find technical solutions based on
the issues addressed.
This paper discussed identity theft issues only from the
system planner’s perspective. Research scope should be
expanded by including owner, designer, and builder’s
perspectives in the future. Detailed analysis of designer’s
perspective will be useful for information systems design
for the purpose of identity information protection.
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