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Source: National Post

Posted on January 31, 2005

      Canadians, though largely a savvy lot when it comes to protecting themselves from identity theft, still reveal potentially sensitive information over the phone and Internet, according to a new survey.

      An online survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid showed that, while most Canadians are hesitant to give out information such as their Social Insurance Number and debit or credit card numbers, nearly 20% of respondents said they would reveal account numbers and personal passwords over the phone when doing business with a company.

      The number was even higher - 27% - when the exchange took place over the Internet.

      "Twenty per cent doesn't sound like a lot," said Michel Brazeau, an executive vice-president with consulting firm EDS Corp., which commissioned the survey. "But if two out of every 10 people you call would give you their passwords - that's a huge security issue, no matter what the functionality of that password."

      The survey of 1,735 people concluded that consumers need further education about identity theft. It also noted that the RCMP saw a 63% rise in identity theft complaints between 2002 and 2003.

      The survey also sought to gauge public opinion on the use of biometric equipment to alleviate security concerns as more businesses and government agencies seek to move their businesses and services online.

      Biometrics are technologies used to authenticate the holder of, say a passport, by "reading" the user's unique fingerprint, iris, voice or facial characteristics and comparing it to a pre-existing database. For example, frequent flyers are using such systems to move more quickly through security at several major Canadian airports.

      But Peter Reid, a U.S.-based managing consultant with EDS Security and Privacy Services, said biometrics also makes sense for other institutions such as banks, where the technology could be used to determine whether a crook is using a stolen debit card and pin number.

      EDS found in its survey that 65% of Canadian respondents said they accepted the use of biometrics, with a majority of those people citing increased security as their main reasoning.

      That differs markedly to the situation in the United States, where a similar EDS survey last year showed that convenience was the overriding motivation behind people's acceptance of the new technologies.

      The biometrics industry has boomed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as governments and corporations have looked to beef up the security of key operations. Some estimates suggest the industry could be growing by as much as 70% annually, and will hit $1-billion U.S. by 2006.

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