Overuse of SSNs

The overuse of the Social Security Number bothers me.

Healthcare providers use the SSN. They all want it, so they all have it in their files and databases. Given the push to move records to electronic form, they all have it recorded in databases. This makes them tempting targets for fraudsters. They have to use the strongest security practices to protect the data which also makes working with it more difficult which leads to shortcuts that make them more vulnerable.

From Bruce Schneier,

It’s not just Equifax. It might be one of the biggest, but there are 2,500 to 4,000 other data brokers that are collecting, storing, and selling information about you — almost all of them companies you’ve never heard of and have no business relationship with.

He goes on to talk about how companies are tracking our moves online and tying it to their profiles of our identity.

If my financial account (like a credit card number) is compromised, then the bank’s solution is to close the bad account and open a clean one for me. If my Social Security Number is compromised, then my solution is to closely monitor the opening of accounts using it. Getting a new SSN is very difficult because unlike a financial account, the number is my unique identifier.

Personally, I think the fine for a healthcare entity getting breached should be $100 per account. So, Anthem’s 2017 breach of 18,000 members would cost it $1,800,000. Anthem’s 2015 breach of 78.8 million would cost it $7.88 billion. (They got a fine of $115 million or about $1.50 per account.)

 

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