Is your identity secure: Social Security Numbers and their problems - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Is your identity secure: Social Security Numbers and their problems

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Researchers have found that it is possible to guess many -- if not all -- of the nine digits in an individual's Social Security number using publicly available information, a finding they say compromises the security of one of the most widely used consumer identifiers in the United States.

The Social Security number's first three digits -- called the "area number" -- is issued according to the Zip code of the mailing address provided in the application form. The fourth and fifth digits -- known as the "group number" -- transition slowly, and often remain constant over several years for a given region. The last four digits are assigned sequentially.

As a result, SSNs assigned in the same state to applicants born on consecutive days are likely to contain the same first four or five digits, particularly in states with smaller populations and rates of birth.

As it happens, the researchers said, if you're trying to discover a living person's SSN, the best place to start is with a list of dead people -- particularly deceased people who were born around the time and place of your subject. The so-called "Death Master File," is a publicly available file which lists SSNs, names, dates of birth and death, and the states of all individuals who have applied for a number and whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration.

Researchers theorized that they could use the Death Master File along with publicly available birth information to predict narrow ranges of values wherein individual SSNs were likely to fall. They found that on the first try they could correctly guess the first five digits of the SSN for 44 percent of deceased people who were born after 1988, and for 7 percent of those born between 1973 and 1988.

They were able to identify all nine digits for 8.5 percent of people born after 1988 in fewer than 1,000 attempts. For people born recently in smaller states, researchers sometimes needed just 10 or fewer attempts to predict all nine digits.

Lawmakers say this research is important and will help prove the importance of changing how America approaches individual security. They also say fixing the system could be expensive, but is very necessary.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Spokane human rights group to apologize to sheriff, deputies

    Spokane human rights group to apologize to sheriff, deputies

    Sunday, July 23 2017 12:15 PM EDT2017-07-23 16:15:29 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The Spokane Human Rights Commission plan to apologize to the sheriff's office for a comment one of its official made on social media regarding newly hired deputies. Vice chairwoman Ashley Torres shared a post on Facebook announcing seven new Spokane County sheriff's deputies and commented on the lack of diversity in the force.

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The Spokane Human Rights Commission plan to apologize to the sheriff's office for a comment one of its official made on social media regarding newly hired deputies. Vice chairwoman Ashley Torres shared a post on Facebook announcing seven new Spokane County sheriff's deputies and commented on the lack of diversity in the force.

    >>
  • Police: Video shows teens watching, laughing as man drowns

    Police: Video shows teens watching, laughing as man drowns

    Saturday, July 22 2017 2:48 PM EDT2017-07-22 18:48:32 GMT

    COCOA, Fla. (AP) - Authorities in Florida say a group of teens watched and laughed as a man drowned in a retention pond last week. Jamel Dunn drowned in a retention pond in the city of Cocoa on July 9. Cocoa police say they later discovered a group of teens recorded the 31-year-old's drowning on video. The video was released by the state attorney's office Thursday and audio was published by Florida Today.

    >>

    COCOA, Fla. (AP) - Authorities in Florida say a group of teens watched and laughed as a man drowned in a retention pond last week. Jamel Dunn drowned in a retention pond in the city of Cocoa on July 9. Cocoa police say they later discovered a group of teens recorded the 31-year-old's drowning on video. The video was released by the state attorney's office Thursday and audio was published by Florida Today.

    >>
  • Contest winner disqualified over pro-Trump Instagram post

    Contest winner disqualified over pro-Trump Instagram post

    Sunday, July 23 2017 2:38 PM EDT2017-07-23 18:38:14 GMT

    A Kansas makeup artist says she won a national contest sponsored by Kat Von D Beauty but was later was disqualified because of her Instagram post supporting Donald Trump's presidential candidacy. The Wichita Eagle reports screenshots taken by Gypsy Freeman of Wichita show she won the Instagram contest last month.

    >>

    A Kansas makeup artist says she won a national contest sponsored by Kat Von D Beauty but was later was disqualified because of her Instagram post supporting Donald Trump's presidential candidacy. The Wichita Eagle reports screenshots taken by Gypsy Freeman of Wichita show she won the Instagram contest last month.

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/