Data Breaches Eroding Usefulness Of Current Personal Identification Methods (Social Security Number, DOB) — Argues New Thinking

Data Breaches Eroding Usefulness Of Current Personal Identification Methods (Social Security Number, DOB)– Argues New Thinking

<a href=""Why Your Data Breach Is My Problem

John Dunn had an online article in the March 28, 2014 Techworld, with the title above. He writes that “the number of personal records compromised by data breaches has reached such proportions — that once important identifiers such as U.S. Social Security numbers — could soon stop being a reliable way of authenticating people,” according to a new analysis by NSS Labs (see attachment above).

“The world according to Why Your Data Breach Is My Problem,” by cyber security researchers Stefan Frei and Bob Walder, “is a depressing, if not a down right worrying one,” says Mr. Dunn, “where breaches have stopped being frightening exceptions and become almost normal. This has bred a mixture of complacency and organizational inertia.”

“NSS labs isn’t the first to point out this extraordinary statistic — that at least half the largest data breaches reported,” — since cyber breach statistics have been catalogued — occurred in 2013,” adds Mr. Dunn. “This simply isn’t a matter of better [cyber security] detection,” he argues, rather, “cyber criminals really are going after personal data — like miners drawn to a bizarre digital gold rush.”

Mr. Dunn emphasizes that the NSS Lab report “makes clear, the long-term accumulation of large data breaches, could be to fatally undermine the usefulness of supposedly private personal data itself. If criminals keep mining huge amounts of personal data from thefts, it will eventually become difficult for anyone to authenticate themselves using today’s identifiers.”

“Cyber criminals have already been collecting and correlating breach information, and eventually, they will be able to accurately identify individual users in large numbers. Therefore, in the long-term, these static information attributes will no longer be considered private,” according to the NSS Lab report. These identifiers include, date-of-birth, gender, citizenship, and social security number — all static identifiers that consumers can’t change after a breach — as they can a password or credit card number. Static identifiers are also used by multiple services — which means a compromise of one, can impact [negatively] many others,” according to the report.

“In the view of the authors,” Mr. Dunn says, “the idea that identifying people using this kind of data not only pre-dates the era of massive information breaches — but, the Internet itself.” “Enterprises and, especially governments, should reduce their dependence on them,” says NSS Labs. Indeed, the authors recommend that “businesses should look to hold the minimum amount of data they need, preferably using dynamic identifiers that don’t put a user’s identity at risk in the long-term. Meanwhile, all users at risk — those whose accounts have been compromised, should be properly re-authenticated.”

The authors recommend that “governments and industry should consider setting up a trusted clearing-house that systematically collects and analyzes breached data — in order to notify and consult the operators services at risk; and, help users assess their risk.”

Mr. Dunn concludes, “the NSS Labs perspective on data breaches is a reminder that an industry that is still arguing over notification laws — has a lot of work to do. One firm, SafeNet, has even funded an attempt to rate cyber breaches on a Richter-like scale; and, beyond simply looking at the number of records compromised. Regardless of size and apparent seriousness, Why Your Data Breach Is My Problem, is a reminder that the data breaches of last year — will not be victimless crimes, The serious, cumulative effect of breached data might not yet have shown its full destructive effects.”

This kind of thinking is useful and long overdue. We desperately need to move away from social security numbers, date-of-birth, etc. as personal identifiers and move to something that is more random and/or capable of being changed — just like a password can be changed. Perhaps we will eventually have a DNA-ID “bank” for personal identification — though I guess that thieves would then try and duplicate or mimic the DNA — down the line. Random numbers that change frequently — would be great; but, doubt we have “good enough” software and artificial intelligence to get us some place like that in the near-term. But, there is no doubt, that the old way of doing business — identifying ourselves by social security numbers, date and place of birth, etc. are no longer reliable methods of personal identification; nor, authentication. V/R, RCP


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