10Minutes on data and identity theft

October 2008
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Data and identity theft

At a glance

The risk of data and identity theft is on the rise and PwC understands that data losses can be devastating and risks are substantial, including compromise of company IT systems, direct financial impacts from investigations and customer lawsuits, erosion of brand reputation, loss of customers, government fines and regulatory mandates. Having strong data safeguards in place can help secure a company's reputation, competitiveness, and financial well-being.

The portability and accessibility of information are crucial components of a collaborative, interconnected business world. However, the problem with sharing information is that it can get shared with the wrong people.

Whenever highly sensitive or regulated information is lost, misused, or compromised, it falls under the banner of data and identity theft. Intellectual property, personally identifiable information (birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses, etc.), trade secrets, employee and customer data, and payment card data are all examples of sensitive or regulated information.

Data losses can be devastating. Besides potential fines and lawsuits, security breaches can have a long-term impact on a company’s brand and reputation. Having strong data safeguards in place can help secure a company’s reputation, competitiveness, and financial well-being.


  • The Federal Trade Commission estimates that the annual losses to business from data and identity theft amount to almost $50 billion.
  • Nearly 90% of our ethical hacking tests are successful in gaining access to highly sensitive information.
  • High profits and sophisticated techniques are making data and identity theft more lucrative, easier to conduct, and more difficult to police. Weak international laws make it difficult to prosecute thieves.
  • Identifying sensitive data and safeguarding it end-to-end is the basis of a strong data-protection program.
  • Protection of sensitive information is an overall business issue, not just an IT issue.