Risk
1/10/2008
03:57 PM
Tom LaSusa
Tom LaSusa
Commentary
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Brit Posts Bank Account Number, Gets Hacked

The world is filled with daredevils: bungee jumpers, mountain climbers, those crazy guys who get chased by bulls in Spain. However, none of those thrill-seekers hold a candle to British columnist/TV celebrity Jeremy Clarkson. Fearless to the core, Mr. Clarkson decided to publish his own personal bank account number in the paper, confident that no one would be able to do anything with it.

The world is filled with daredevils: bungee jumpers, mountain climbers, those crazy guys who get chased by bulls in Spain. However, none of those thrill-seekers hold a candle to British columnist/TV celebrity Jeremy Clarkson. Fearless to the core, Mr. Clarkson decided to publish his own personal bank account number in the paper, confident that no one would be able to do anything with it.Over the last few months, Mr. Clarkson's colleagues in the British media have been reporting about a massive data loss suffered by HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) -- a department of U.K. government that deals mostly with tax collection. In November, it was revealed that two of the department's discs, containing various data on nearly 25 million individuals, had vanished. The discs were password protected, but not encrypted.

The incident has resulted in board resignations, lawsuits, public outcries for changes to data protection, and more. One of those not overwhelmed or impressed by the massive data loss -- Mr. Clarkson.

As mentioned earlier, convinced that everyone was blowing the situation out of proportion, Clarkson decided to "prove a point" by publishing his bank account number in the newspaper. According to him, the only thing that anyone could do with a bank account number would be deposit more money in the account. (Aww, isn't he cute?).

Needless to say, a point was made.

The following month, his bank statement indicated that his account had been set up to make a direct debit of £500, with the money being given to a charity. Furthermore, because of a U.K. law called the Data Protection Act (DPA), the bank -- and Clarkson -- are prohibited from investigating and determining who set this up. Nor can they prevent it from occurring again, unless, of course, he closes that account and starts up a new one.

It goes without saying I'm fresh out of sympathy for Mr. Clarkson. His "brazen" act smacks of complete and utter naivety of how data theft works, and what exactly can be done with your identity when its stolen. He's very fortunate that the person who used the account information was merely trying to prove a point as well, and pulled a "Robin Hood" by giving a small amount of money to a charity.

But hey, maybe this is how Clarkson lives his life on the edge. No climbing K2 for him. Forget swimming with sharks. Risking his identity is what gets his blood pumping.

You know what? So does exercise.

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