It’s time to retire the Social Security number

With 40 million individuals having their SSN uncovered through the T-Cell hack, it is time to rethink the usefulness of the Social Safety quantity.

Social security cards and cash

Picture: Lane V. Erickson/Shutterstock

It has been a tricky week for information, with a collection of unfavorable headlines on all the pieces from a COVID resurgence to Afghanistan. In what might need been a extra distinguished story, cell phone service T-Cell acknowledged that almost 50 million prospects had private knowledge stolen, with greater than 40 million prospects having their identify, tackle and Social Safety numbers among the many pilfered knowledge.

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The unwitting key to the dominion

Social Safety numbers have been initially meant to trace particular person accounts within the Social Safety program, which is actually a U.S. government-managed retirement program. Intriguingly, among the early resistance to the Social Safety scheme was because of the concern that the numbers would change into a nationwide identification variety of types, and varied guidelines have been carried out to assuage these issues. Nonetheless, as most U.S. residents and residents know, the SSN has certainly change into a de facto identification quantity, and is required for all the pieces from submitting taxes to opening a checking account to getting cell phone service.

From a expertise perspective, a globally distinctive identification quantity is actually helpful, for instance, permitting an organization to rapidly confirm that a person buyer has credit score by sharing an SSN with a credit score bureau. This ease of data trade about people made the SSN a crucial element of partaking in commerce, and the benefit of exchanging knowledge on people cemented its use as a key, each technically and actually, to accessing a person’s monetary life.

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This has made the SSN a useful instrument for id thieves and different nefarious actors, to the purpose that conventional financial institution robberies have been declining whereas cybercrime and id theft are on the rise. You do not have to be a legal mastermind to see the apparent advantage of sitting in a snug chair with a cell phone, laptop computer and a little bit of appeal, and utilizing stolen Social Safety numbers to pilfer money with out placing your self or others in any bodily hazard.

With the Social Safety quantity, we have created a common key to thousands and thousands of peoples’ belongings, and one which we have change into so reliant on it is the equal of preserving financial institution vault mixtures on a post-it notice close to the vault and being shocked when cash goes lacking.

Throw away the important thing

Changing the SSN with a safer mechanism might appear to be an intractable drawback finest left to politicians; nevertheless, firms that lose buyer knowledge are legitimately topic to harsh monetary penalties. It is doubtless that the common firm can not thrust back a classy cyberattack, so slightly than investing solely in safety, why not do away with the asset that is most certainly to be stolen and eradicate your storage of Social Safety numbers?

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The apparent problem to not requesting, gathering or storing SSNs is that they are used as a proxy for identification and entry to monetary data. Nonetheless, different industries have solved this drawback successfully and elegantly. Each time I’m required to confirm my employment and wage, I can full a easy on-line type specifying the info I need to share, and I am immediately supplied with a one-time key that I present to somebody to permit them to entry my employment knowledge for a restricted time period.

The SSN is a bug, not a function

Most people who have interaction in the US’ financial life have acquired the dreaded letter that their private data has been stolen and that they being supplied “id safety providers” from no matter group uncovered their data by way of some mixture of incompetence or unhealthy luck. Your prospects are doubtless pissed off and maybe have been put by way of the wringer of resolving an id theft as a result of one among these incidents.

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Why not flip that frustration right into a differentiator by telling your prospects you are deleting all references to their SSN in your programs and are utilizing a safer technique to establish and entry their knowledge? Make a present of the truth that you perceive their issues, and have created new instruments and enterprise processes to keep away from storing and doubtlessly dropping the important thing to their monetary kingdom. Quite than extra marketing-speak about how a lot you care about your prospects, put that purported care into motion by avoiding knowledge loss within the first place.

Not solely would possibly these methods entice and retain prospects, however they might in the end scale back your prices ought to a breach happen, and even perhaps scale back your cybersecurity spending. In spite of everything, you do not want Fort Knox when you have nothing of worth to steal.

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