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Data Under Siege

ID Thieves Breach LexisNexis, Obtain Information on 32,000

By Jonathan Krim and Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page E01

Identity thieves have penetrated another company that collects and sells personal information on millions of U.S. consumers, the latest in a series of breaches that is throwing a spotlight on the practices and safeguards of a booming data-collection industry.

LexisNexis, a worldwide provider of legal and business data, announced yesterday that information about 32,000 consumers was fraudulently gathered in a series of incidents. The data include names, addresses and Social Security and driver's license numbers.

Stealing Personal Data Identity theft and the misuse of information services by thieves has been rising for nearly a decade. Here are some major cases.
Audio: The Washington Post's Robert O'Harrow discusses the security breach at LexisNexis and the recent spike in identity theft.
_____Essential Background_____
When Your Identity Is Their Commodity (The Washington Post, Mar 6, 2005)
ChoicePoint Data Cache Became a Powder Keg (The Washington Post, Mar 5, 2005)
Databases Called Lax With Personal Information (The Washington Post, Feb 25, 2005)
ChoicePoint Victims Have Work Ahead (The Washington Post, Feb 23, 2005)
ID Data Conned From Firm (The Washington Post, Feb 17, 2005)
In Age of Security, Firm Mines Wealth Of Personal Data (The Washington Post, Jan 20, 2005)
Critics Question Impartiality of Panel Studying Privacy Rights (The Washington Post, Mar 11, 2005)
Hackers Target U.S. Power Grid (The Washington Post, Mar 11, 2005)
MBA Applicants Pay Price for Unauthorized Site Searches (The Washington Post, Mar 10, 2005)
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The breaches occurred at the company's recently acquired Seisint Inc. subsidiary, a Florida firm that sells data amassed from extensive public records searches to law enforcement agencies, businesses, private investigators and others.

Kurt Sanford, president and chief executive of the LexisNexis corporate and federal markets unit, said company investigators discovered that fraud artists had assumed the identities and used the passwords of legitimate customers to download the customer data.

"LexisNexis very much regrets this and will be notifying all the individuals concerned and providing them with ongoing credit monitoring and practical support to ensure that any identity theft is quickly detected and addressed," the company said in a news release.

The breaches occurred in January, and the company is continuing to investigate, working with the Secret Service.

The announcement comes just weeks after a LexisNexis competitor, ChoicePoint Inc., revealed an even larger security lapse that enabled fraud artists posing as legitimate businessmen in Los Angeles to access personal information about at least 145,000 people around the country.

Investigators are exploring whether the suspect in that case also compromised LexisNexis and other information services.

The ChoicePoint disclosure last month was followed by revelations that Bank of America Corp. had lost computer tapes containing financial data on 1.2 million federal workers, including U.S. senators.

Then late Tuesday, shoe retailer DSW Inc. revealed that credit card numbers of people who shopped at 103 of its 175 stores had been obtained by hackers.

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