by CIO Staff

N.Y.’s Westchester County Enacts Law Meant to Cut ID Theft

Apr 21, 20062 mins

On Thursday, New York’s Westchester County enacted a law meant to crack down on identity theft by mandating that local businesses install security measures for any wireless network that houses sensitive personal information, like credit card or Social Security numbers, the Associated Press reports via the New York Post.

Under the law, all businesses that offer Internet access will have to post signs recommending that customers employ firewalls and other security safeguards, according to the AP. Those signs will read something like, “For your own protection and privacy, you are advised to install a firewall or other computer security measure when accessing the Internet,” according to the AP.

County Executive Andrew Spano said as far as he knows, the law is the first of its kind in the nation, the AP reports.

“There are many unsecured wireless networks out there, and any malicious individual with even minimal technical competence would have no trouble accessing information that should be kept confidential,” Spano said, according to the AP. “It would be nice if these businesses took the necessary steps on their own to ensure their networks were kept secure, but the sad fact is that many don’t.”

Any computer that is connected to the Web is at risk, but wireless networks are more vulnerable because it’s easier for a hacker to snatch data out of the air than from a wired network.

Bruce Schneier, chief technical officer with Counterpane Internet Security, said the new law is valuable because it gives companies incentive to protect customer data, but warned, “It’s not going to stop identity theft,” the AP reports.

Businesses will be required to install firewalls or modify default SSIDs, the names used to identify wireless networks, unless the stored information is already encrypted, according to the AP.

Westchester Chief Information Officer Norman Jacknis said county officials found some 250 wireless networks during a 20-minute tour of downtown White Plains, almost half of which had no obvious security safeguards installed, the AP reports.

The new law will be effective in six months, according to the AP.

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