Contrary to popular belief, stealing someone's digital identity is a snap. It almost seems as though the more we use digital identities, the easier they are to swipe. The reason can be attributed to general carelessness or perhaps outright ignorance, but whatever the case, letting your digital identity fall into the wrong hands can expose you and your organization to a world of headaches.
Case in point: I routinely use Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) and SMIME to secure e-mails and file transfers. Yet frequently, even somewhat knowledgeable IT security people get confused about which keys to use when. In order to for someone to send me encrypted content, I need to send that person my public key. Similarly, I need the recipient's public key so that I can send him or her encrypted content. We should never share private keys. That's why they are called private. Pretty simple -- or so you would think. More often than not, if the person isn't overly familiar with PGP/SMIME, even if they've been using it, they send me their private key.
Being the good citizen that I am, I delete their private key and ask again for their public key, explaining that with their private key, I could be them, for all digital purposes. About half the newly educated group then sends back my public key back or, if they're using PGP, their private key ring, which contains all their private keys. You might think that I'm making this stuff up, but it's pretty much been this way with PKI and PGP exchanges since they were invented. PGP's own Phil Zimmerman has often written on this subject.
Real and virtual converge
The danger of having your digital identity stolen is dire. Increasingly, our digital identities are us. I now pay 95 percent of my bills online. My digital self has platinum status with several major hotels and airlines. I get monthly refills on some of my supplements and my family's medication from online stores. Even my dog gets her medicine in the mail. I've had my personal e-mail address for over a decade.
Moreover, Xbox and everything that virtual world entails knows me by my Microsoft Live ID. Netflix only knows me through my Xbox profile. Talk to anyone who has accidentally misaligned their Live ID and Xbox profile. It's a frustrating experience to have your digital self not synced with your real self.