UC Davis students can now have personal identity protection without breaking their budgets.
The university is partnering with security company Identity Finder LLC to give their Identity Finder software free to all UC Davis students. It will also be available through ucdavis.edu.
The CEO of Identity Finder LLC, Todd Feinman, stressed the importance of having such security on computers as a way to mitigate the higher risk of physical theft.
“Today, your personal information is not only your Social Security or credit card numbers, but also your password to log into PayPal or your bank account,” Feinman said in an interview with educationnews.org. “Once a hacker gets into your bank account and transfers money to another account it is extremely hard to get back.“
The software protects students against identity theft by scanning their computer files and Internet browsers for sensitive information.
Users then have several options. “Shred” is the option that deletes files; “scrub” replaces the information on the file, “quarantine” shreds the old file while copying a new one into a secure location, and “secure” protects the file through password encryption.
Identity Finder LLC is already licensed by UC Davis and the UC Davis Health System to provide software for faculty use, chosen for “including fewer false positives and the capability to search additional file formats,“ according to a UC Davis Information Education Technology Report.
False positives occur when the software confuses non-sensitive information, such as vendor tracking numbers (i.e. UPS, FedEx), with private data such as bank or credit card numbers.
In a test by smallbusinesscomputing.com, Identity Finder did generate false positives when it confused non-sensitive information, such as vendor tracking numbers with private data such as bank or credit numbers; however, it was able to ignore fake Social Security and credit card numbers that were placed next to real ones.
Security experts note that while having identity protection software does help, it should not lead to an attitude of complacency. Adopting an attitude of vigilance pre-empts major problems in the long run.
“I would say that it does provide assistance, but I think that it shouldn’t lull you into a false sense of security,” said Matt Cullina, CEO of Identity Theft 911. “I think the more folks are looking at things on a daily basis, the more they’re going to stop something from happening right away or possibly avoid it altogether.“
Need for the software is apparent. According to a Privacy Rights Clearinghouse study, security breaks at American universities compromised the personal data of 700,000 individuals in the first nine months of 2009 alone.
Sensitive material included names, academic records, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers.
Cullina said the decentralized nature of universities created problems for security officials in charge of protection. He noted that the university is in charge of overseeing and protecting 35,000 computers, some issued by the university, and expressed the difficulty of that situation.
“There may be a lot of sensitive information in each area’s files, and if there [are] simple ways to centralize that data and protect it in one place, rather than trying to protect it in all these various areas, that may be a better way to go,” Cullina said.
While larger issues are raised, students are just happy they can get the complimentary software.
“It’s a brilliant idea,” said Larry Liu, a sophomore neurobiology, physiology and behavior major. “Because you’re being given this software for free, you don’t have an excuse not to use it.“
To obtain a copy of Identity Finder, visit software.ucdavis.edu/index.cfm and look under software to receive further instruction.
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at email@example.com.