New research center will focus on identity fraud

Government, academic and private-sector officials today announced the formation of a research partnership to focus on combating identity fraud.

The Center for Identity Management and Information Protection will be located in the Economic Crime Institute of Utica College in Utica, N.Y. The aim is to replace current piecemeal research efforts by pulling together resources from industry, educational institutions and law enforcement. It will produce training materials and develop best practices for protecting data and detecting and preventing fraud.

Despite the recent attention given to identity theft and fraud, "we still know very little about the nature of the threat and the best ways to combat it," Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Science Committee, said at the announcement of the center.

Boehlert, a Utica graduate, said federal spending on scientific research, much of it through the National Science Foundation, is focused on long-term basic research. The CIMIP will fill a need for near-term applied research. Utica president Todd S. Hutton said the center is the "logical next step" to the school's pioneering Economic Crime Institute, established in 1988, along with the school's undergraduate degree program in economic crime investigation, the first in the nation.

Other founding partners include the FBI and Secret Service, CERT/CC at Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute, Indiana University's Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, Syracuse University's CASE Center, LexisNexis Special Services Inc. and IBM Corp.

CIMIP will have an initial budget of $500,000, half of it from corporate contributions and half from federal grants, said Gray R. Gordon, professor of economic crime management, who will head the center. In addition to Gordon as executive director, the staff will consist of a full-time administrator. Ad hoc research teams will be pulled together from member organizations for specific projects.

"We anticipate that in the next year we will double or triple the size of the center," Gordon said.

Its first project will be a study with the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs of emerging criminal groups engaged in identity theft. Future research will focus on detection and prevention of identity theft; the role of policy, legislation and regulation; improvement of authentication systems; and data protection technology.

The Secret Service and FBI will share information gathered in its operations with the center. Brian Nagel, deputy director of the Secret Service, called it "critically important" for law enforcement to share information with and benefit from the expertise in the private and academic sectors. He said law enforcement often is "too operationally focused" to see the big picture of the problem it is combating.

"It will help us to be proactive rather than reactive, which we haven't been able to do recently," said Ray Morrow, acting deputy assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigation division.

William Jackson is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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