Trump administration looks to kill the Social Security number

“The administration of President Donald Trump is exploring ways to replace the Social Security number with a safer system based on modern technology in the wake of the Equifax Inc. hack, the White House cybersecurity czar said Tuesday” Yuka Hayashi reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“Rob Joyce, the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator, said one possibility is using cryptographic keys, or a combination of long random numbers, to unlock personal data. The merit of such numbers is that they could be revoked once they are found to be compromised, he said,” Hayashi reports. “‘I feel very strongly that the Social Security number has outlived its usefulness,’ Mr. Joyce said at a cybersecurity conference hosted by the Washington Post.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and U.S. President Donald Trump at tech summit in June 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook and U.S. President Donald Trump at tech summit in June 2017
‘It’s a flawed system. If you think about it, every time we use the Social Security number, we put it at risk.’ He described the current system as ‘untenable,’ noting that his own Social Security number has been compromised at least 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,’ Mr. Joyce said, adding he has asked various departments and federal agencies to submit ideas,” Hayashi reports. “The [Equifax] hack exposed the personal data of 145.5 million Americans, including people’s Social Security numbers and dates of birth—data that can’t be changed even if it has been compromised.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s about time! The Social Security number has been an insecure anachronism for decades. Kill it! The secure solution is already at hand, just look at Apple’s Secure Enclave and Apple Pay for the building blocks.

Equifax victims may face another hassle in buying an iPhone – September 14, 2017
Equifax’s latest breach is very possibly the worst leak of personal info ever – September 8, 2017


    1. Too bad they’re not looking to kill the entire SS ponzi scheme itself.

      It’s a horrible sap on the economy. I could have generated 100X the return without even paying attention if I hadn’t had my money forcibly taken from me for that socialist stupidity.

      Burn in hell, FDR! Burn in hell!

      1. The irony is that the IRS could have done a “quick and cheap” security enhancement years ago by simply issuing everyone a 4 digit PIN, which was only to be used for some extremely narrow purposes, while they work out a better overall approach.

        In any event, when organizations like Equifax get hacked, it simply doesn’t matter if it’s a 9 digit SSN, or a 9+4, or a 255 bit cypher: whatever is in the database will get scraped. As such, the only way to stop that is to disallow them from ever having the entire ID#.

  1. This could help to protect your SSI, but credit rating will still have a number, if not the same number.

    I like Equifax’s recent announcement, free lock/unlock of your credit report, for life. I think our credit reports/ratings should be our own to manage. We should be able to control what goes in. However if you want to buy a house, car, sign up for any credit account, you have to allow that vendor in.

    This should be for all three.

    1. Equifax’s “free lock/unlock” sounds great. What took so long? Well, they wanted to monetize our info, enabled by their control. Now they get spanked and they want to do what’s best/right. Reminds me of the Sen Corker’s “new” objection to tax reform if it adds to the deficit. He has this change of mind now that he plans to retire and doesn’t need to maintain his swim in the congressional gravy. It’s very swampy out there.

  2. They aren’t trying to kill social security numbers. They want to eliminate them from being used for identification purposes, in theory, because it is impossible to get a different number if someone steals your identity. I don’t know that that is necessarily a good thing either, but at least get the facts right. Also, how this is relevant to Apple or technology is a mystery.

    1. to Apple/technology because Apple has excellent security ideas/execution and has fiercely advocated for personal security. I’d love to see Apple in charge of this. SS# as security factor is more than antiquated.

    2. Social Security numbers were never intended to be used for identification purposes. “Not for identification” is printed right on the front of my SS card.

      However, for all intents and purposes, the government basically made SS# a form of ID by (over time) requiring its use for purposes other than what was originally.

      I got my SS card when I opened my first bank account at 14 because it was a government requirement at that time. Don’t know if that was always the case. However, we had to get one for my son when he was only a few weeks/months old… for reasons I don’t recall now because he is now in his mid 30s.

  3. For decades the Social Security Card had stamped on it not to be used for identification. In true government form, the SSN was then used for Taxpayer ID by the IRS and the DoD replaced service serial numbers with the SSN.

  4. If party A is in office, then party B thinks its a bad idea.
    If party B is in office, then party A thinks its a bad idea.

    Why can’t people have an opinion without the party they belong to telling them how to think first.

    Granted this opinion doesn’t really apply to this thread, but it sure seems this way most please I see on the internet.

    1. This actually used to be the case. Bipartisanship was a real thing up until the past 30-40 years. Some say it started with Newt Gingrich; others point to Reagan. Regardless, it’s reached untenable levels these days. There’s an amazing graphic about this on The Economist. It’s a few years old, but it shows the difference in voting from 1989 to 2013. Worth a look.

    2. We could start by changing the voting system. The “first past the post” system that we use guarantees that no viable third party can emerge. But if you could list in order your preferences, you’re not wasting your vote by choosing a person or party that currently has no chance to win. This gives other parties a chance to slowly gain strength and recognition.
      A simple example: There are 4 candidates. You like C, but if not C you definitely prefer A over B, and never D. So you list C, A, B on your ballot and omit D. The votes are tallied.
      If there is no majority winner, then the lowest vote getter is eliminated, and those ballots are reallocated using the next choice. Repeat until there’s a majority winner.
      So in the end, currently, you’d still end up with the top two being Democrat and Republican, but people could see how much support the other candidates truly have.
      This is a much better system, simple to do, and still requires only a single day of voting.

  5. Decades ago, your Social Security number was included on many things – government ID, some state driver’s licenses, etc. In those days when you wrote a check at the grocery store, they would copy information from your driver’s license onto your check by hand, including your SSN. People started including their SSN on their printed checks to avoid the slowdown at the checkout – that way all they needed to do was verify the information on the check against your license.

    Somewhere in the 1980s the pushback began against using your SSN as a general identifier. But the damage was already done for tens of millions of people. And, now, Equifax has revealed 140M+ SSNs along with all of the other data used to verify a person’s identity. If it wasn’t screwed before, then it surely is now. Thanks, Equifax…I have no doubt that my future holds lots of stolen identity pain thanks to you.

  6. Of course, no matter how secure it is, the IRS or NSA will want the “backdoor” key. Those agencies will get hacked, and all the numbers will be useless again. Call me jaded, but nothing will ever work.

  7. It could be interesting to change to a different ID system. I just don’t trust this administration to do that competently, or honestly. Trump and his cohorts are a bunch of mendacious grifters.

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