White House Official, Former NSA Hacker: Social Security Numbers Are Useless

White House Official, Former NSA Hacker: Social Security Numbers Are Useless

White House Official, Former NSA Hacker: Social Security Numbers Are Useless

The consideration comes as the fallout continues from consumer credit agency Equifax's massive data breach earlier this summer that affected more than a hundred million Americans. Using Social Security numbers to confirm personal identity is a "flawed system", and has "outlived" its usefulness, White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce said at a conference today sponsored by the Washington Post. The breach effectively compromised the national identification number of almost half of the entire country.

"A Social Security number was never meant to be more than an identification credential for government services", said Michael Figueroa, executive director of the Advanced Cyber Security Center in Boston. "What is a better way to identify consumers in our country in a very secure way?"

In response to the breach Equifax has provided consumers with credit monitoring services and other tools created to help protect their identity but the bell can not be unrung. But stolen social security numbers can be used by criminals to open bogus accounts or for other types of identity theft.

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"We've used it so much, it's extended so far beyond its primary goal", Figueroa said.

Joyce said a federal team is looking at "what the technologies are that could change or replace these identifiers", such as using public key encryption.

They want to scrap social security numbers altogether and have people use private keys, longer strings of codes, or digital DNA fingerprints.

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"At the policy coordination level ... we've called for the departments and agencies to bring forward their ideas and let's start talking about the Social Security number and the vulnerabilities in the cyber wall", he said.

The administration is also participating in discussions Congress is having about the requirements of protecting personal data and breach notifications for companies. Almost 454 million different numbers have been issued, according to the Social Security Administration.

The original intent was to track U.S. workers' earning to determine their Social Security benefits.

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