Government Looks to End Social Security Number Usage After Equifax Hack

Colin Fredericson
By Colin Fredericson
October 4, 2017USshare
Government Looks to End Social Security Number Usage After Equifax Hack
People line up outside of the Social Security Administration office in San Francisco, Calif. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The White House discussed ending the use of social security numbers.

The government wants to replace social security numbers with a more secure system after an Equifax data breach led to 145.5 million people’s personal information being exposed, The Wall Street Journal reported. It is not the first large data breach but could be considered the most important, as Equifax handles sensitive credit information.

White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce suggested cryptographic keys be used. Cryptographic keys are just strings of random numbers that once compromised, can be replaced.

“I feel very strongly that the Social Security number has outlived its usefulness,” said Joyce at a cybersecurity conference, via The Wall Street Journal. “It’s a flawed system. If you think about it, every time we use the Social Security number, we put it at risk.” Joyce mentioned his own social security number was compromised four times.

“We’ve got a modern digital age. We’ve got to find a way to use that modern cryptographic identifier to help us drive down that risk,” added Joyce.

Equifax former chief executive Richard Smith testified before a congressional hearing to discuss the data breach and the steps moving forward. Lawmakers brought up the issue that people do not have the option of choosing where their personal information goes, and that they could not have defended themselves from hackers. The hacked information also cannot be changed, since social security numbers and birthdates can’t be changed.

Social security numbers were not originally intended to be used for identification purposes, according to Quartz. The numbers were introduced in 1936 to track earnings. They only came to be extensively used as identification, written and typed on forms of all sorts, after companies found them useful as a single form of identification.

The government is seeking some kind of replacement to social security numbers. Cryptographic keys are only one early idea. The worry is can any system can really offer more security and a lower chance of getting hacked.

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