Could Devaluing SSNs Stymie Security Breaches?

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Cyberattacks have affected millions of Americans in recent years, and the problem only worsens. Are Social Security numbers part of the problem and possibly key to the solution?

It seems like data breaches and cyberattacks are an all-too-common occurrence, and their impacts can be catastrophic for Americans whose personal information is stolen. But what if we eliminated the value of the Social Security number, effectively removing the top prize for hackers?

It’s a question posed by Lawrence Walsh, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group, a research and business strategy firm, in SC Magazine.

Walsh said regardless of tighter regulations, improved technology and new data protection software, security breaches will continue to happen. His unorthodox solution is to devalue the information targeted by hackers.

“Let’s start with Social Security numbers, which are the holy grail of these attacks since they are the keys to unlocking all kinds of other digital treasures,” Walsh said.

As the universal identifier in the United States, there are more than 450 million nine-digit SSNs in circulation. Originally designed for income tracking, SSNs have become a national identification number for taxes. You now need a SSN to apply for a job, open a bank account, apply for a credit card and lots of other financial transactions.

“And while there are few legal requirements to surrender your SSN to any private company, it’s nearly impossible to… conduct a financial transaction without it,” Walsh explained.

Walsh is not alone in calling for a devaluation of the SSN.

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