The massive Equifax data breach has dominated digital security headlines for weeks. That's not surprising since over 145 million Americans had their Social Security numbers (SSN) and other critical data stolen. (Note: If you haven't checked to see if you were impacted, click here to do so immediately.)
The breach is such a disruptive event in most of our financial lives that the U.S. government is thinking about making some changes. It might be the only way to keep criminals from stealing our identities.
Have hackers ruined Social Security numbers' practicality?
Addressing the Equifax breach this week, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce told the "Washington Post" that the Social Security number has "outlived its usefulness" as a method of national identification.
Joyce said, "It's a flawed system. If you think about it, every time we use the Social Security number you put it at risk. By interacting with it, you've given a key piece of information out publicly."
He went on to say that he's working with government departments and agencies to find a way to stop using Social Security numbers as a national identifier. He'd like to move toward a more "modern cryptographic identifier" like public and private keys.
With most data breaches you can change your passwords, and close breached accounts to keep them out of the hands of criminals. That's not the case with Social Security numbers.
One of the main problems with Social Security numbers is the fact that you can never get a new one. If someone steals yours, it's out in the open forever and most likely for sale on the Dark Web.
Joyce isn't the only one questioning the usefulness of Social Security numbers. Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith testified in front of Congress this week to address the problem.
Smith said, "The concept of a Social Security number in this environment being private and secure--I think it's time as a country to think beyond that. What is a better way to identify consumers in our country in a very secure way? I think that way is something different than a Social Security number, date of birth, and a name."
The government started issuing Social Security numbers in 1936. According to the Social Security Administration, over 450 million different numbers have been issued.
What do you think, is it time to do away with SSN? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.
Speaking of Social Security numbers, there is one essential thing you must do following the Equifax data breach
Over 145 million people have been affected by the Equifax data breach, and it keeps getting worse. I've shared critical steps you need to take, but there's one step you may have missed that leaves you wide open to ID theft. Here's how to protect your SSN, and why it's so urgent. If you don't do this now, hackers will.