Your SSN Is Up For Grabs For Thieves With Time On Their Hands

Illustration for article titled Your SSN Is Up For Grabs For Thieves With Time On Their Hands

Convinced that your Social Security Number is secret enough to protect you from identity theft? Think again; researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have proven that they can calculate your SSN from your birth date with worrying ease.

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Carnegie Mellon's Alessandro Acquisti and Ralph Gross have correctly calculated the complete SSN for 8.5 percent of people born between 1989 and 2003 in less than 1000 attempts, proving that any system that relies on SSN and date of birth for security is seriously flawed. As Acquisti explains:

It's possible that criminals are already using this.

The US Social Security Administration is already working on a way to avoid this problem in future by randomizing the selection of the nine digit number - currently, the first five digits are selected depending on zip code of your birthplace - but the workaround won't help the millions of Americans with SSNs currently. For them, their best hope is that would-be cyberthieves give up before their 1000th try.

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Social security flaw leaves way open for cyber-theft [New Scientist]

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DISCUSSION

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Chip Overclock®

Decades ago I worked full-time at a university computer center. One of the database guys could take your SSN and tell you where you applied for it and about how old you were. I was also shocked when he told me that, at least originally, the SSN was never intended to be unique; merely to point to a particular file folder in a particular government file cabinet that might have several folks' paperwork in it.