Self-revelation Can Help Assemble a Social Security Number

Friday, April 16, 2010

Robert Siciliano

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I am not done nor will I ever be done sounding that alarm, ringing that bell and informing you about how ridiculous social media is. I was asked in a radio interview today what it will take to get people to recognize they are sharing too much data. In a word, tragedy. When a home is broken into, they install a home security alarm. When someone is mugged, they take a self defense course. When planes fly into buildings, we get frisked. Being smart is understanding risk and being proactive.

Most people are smart enough to NOT give out a social security number on Facebook. However between what you say, your family, friends and colleagues say and post, your profile is becoming more complete every minute. Even your mom or wife posts her name as “First Maiden Last” because she saw someone else do it and it made sense to allow her old friends/flames to find her.

But today with all this personal information readily available there are now rumblings from academia that they have cracked the code and have assembled technologies to decipher all this information and turn it into hard decipherable data that leads to opening new accounts in your name.

The New York Times reportscomputer scientists and policy experts say that such seemingly innocuous bits of self-revelation can increasingly be collected and reassembled by computers to help create a picture of a person’s identity, sometimes down to the Social Security number. So far, this type of powerful data mining, which relies on sophisticated statistical correlations, is mostly in the realm of university researchers, not identity thieves and marketers.”

SearchSecurity.com reports that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a reliable method to predict Social Security numbers using information from social networking sites, data brokers, voter registration lists, online white pages and the publicly available Social Security Administration’s Death Master File.

Originally, the first three numbers on a Social Security card represented the state in which a person had initially applied for their card. Numbers started in the northeast and moved westward. This meant that people on the east coast had the lowest numbers and those on the west coast had the highest. Before 1986, people were rarely assigned a Social Security number until age 14 or so, since the numbers were used for income tracking purposes.

From this point on I’d suggest locking down social media profiles in a way that they are not publicly accessible. Prevent anyone (except those very close to you) from seeing and reading everything about your daily activities, who you associate with and all the names and contact information of all your friends and family.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing cracking the code and wireless security on Fox Boston.

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