When it comes to all things technology, I'm a graduate of the Woody Allen school.

If something fails to work, such as my Mac or DVD remote, I try to locate the owner's manual and talk to it nicely at least twice.

After that I start to hit.

With great difficulty, I can distinguish between "mega" and "giga" and insert a WiFi card, but beyond that, it's like Prince Charles being asked to change a set of rings on his Bentley.

So you can imagine I feel slightly out of place at technology-centric gatherings, where attendees are fluent in subjects I can't begin to visualize or, for that matter, even pronounce.

And so it was at last week's Tech 2005, the annual information technology conference of the American Institute of CPAs. I was the proverbial pair of brown shoes on a runway of black and white formal wear.

But an old editor of mine once told me that if you're unfamiliar with the subject matter of an assigned event coverage, extract a lot of quotes so it gives the appearance that you actually know what you're writing about.

For those of you who know me, you can probably guess that I've used that strategy on more than one occasion during my two decades in this business.

But I digress.

Looking at the conference agenda, one thing did pop out at me -- the frequency of sessions dedicated to IT security and strategies to secure both your personal and client information.

Speakers and panel moderators spoke about the exponential increases in such identity-theft ploys as phishing and pharming, the undetected presence of spyware and the clandestine implementation of viruses.

I realized that identity theft has, unfortunately, kept pace with technology advancements. Much has changed since 1994 when someone "shoulder surfed" my phone card number at a financial conference and I received a bill later that month for $700 that included two-hour calls to both Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Fast forward to earlier this year, when I received an e-mail from someone purporting to be from PayPal and needing to update my credit card information. As luck would have it, just the day before, I had read an online article on phishing that warned receivers of similar e-mails to check the URL -- which usually included an extra letter.

Recently, I nearly filed for divorce when I found that my wife had used our ATM card to make an online purchase, leaving me to imagine my checking and money market funds being commandeered to some offshore account.

Nevertheless, I sat through several of the AICPA security sessions, each time coming away more wary than when I went in of the identity-theft strategies that far brighter minds than my own are capable of.

When I left, I wasn't a whole lot more skilled in technology matters, but I did pledge to be far more careful than I'd been.

Wait, I just received an e-mail promising to lower my mortgage payments, and to qualify it only requires a major credit card number to verify my identity..

Where's Woody Allen when you need him to hit something?

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access