Nick’s Note: Technology is moving so fast that some relics of the past—despite how important they still are—aren’t able to keep up.

In today’s essay, Palm Beach Confidential analyst Greg Wilson shows how a key piece of information for U.S. citizens is under attack… and how a new technology is poised to revolutionize, and protect, our most personal information.

By Greg Wilson, analyst, Palm Beach Confidential

On September 7, hackers got the crown jewels.

Names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers to nearly every adult in America.

Everything you would need to set up a new account or commit identity fraud.

I’m talking, of course, about Equifax.

Its data breach exposed the personal information of 143 million Americans. That’s nearly half of the U.S. population.

Per cybersecurity expert Jeremiah Grossman: “It’s a safe assumption that everyone’s Social Security number has been compromised and their identity has been stolen.”

The story highlights the problem with the current way we store sensitive information. Companies store records in a central database.

That creates a “honeypot” of information for cybercriminals. And the honey is just too sweet for the fraudsters to pass up.

Equifax is not alone. Verizon, Bell Canada, and Yahoo, among others, all suffered data breaches this year.

And it’s leading to the question: How are we going to fix our identity crisis?

In a moment, I’ll fill you in on a potential solution. And I’ll show you ways to protect yourself now.

Social Security Numbers Must Go

The government created Social Security numbers in 1935 to track the earnings history of workers. That way they could take part in benefits programs.

Today, the number tracks our entire financial history.

After the Equifax hack, many think it should change.

Tom Sosnoff is the co-founder of Thinkorswim. He said, “The era of Social Security numbers as username and password is over. They were never intended to be a personal identifier.”

The Trump administration agrees. It announced it was exploring ways to replace the use of Social Security numbers.

Trump even tasked federal agencies to come up with a new identity system.

Said White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce, “I feel very strongly that the Social Security number has outlived its usefulness. Every time we use the Social Security number, you put it at risk.”

He wants a better solution that uses the latest technologies.

One idea suggested is India’s Aadhaar identity system.

Aadhaar uses biometrics combined with unique identity numbers. However, the U.S. needs a more secure solution.

I think the U.S. government may end up looking to our neighbors up north.

Your New Digital Identity

That’s where SecureKey Technologies is working with the Canadian government and IBM. Together, they are developing a new digital identity system.

Select financial institutions are testing the network. And the Canada Revenue Agency uses it to simplify the login process for citizens.

The goal is to launch the network by the end of the year.

Consumers can opt in to the network. Once in, they can control what information they share with organizations.

Take renting an apartment, for example. You’ll use your digital ID to prove who you are to the landlord.

The same digital ID will also release your credit, background, and employment history. The landlord saves on fees for credit and background checks. And you have less paperwork to fill out.

But it doesn’t stop there. You can also use your digital ID to pay the deposit and get renters’ insurance. You can even set up your utilities like phone and cable.

SecureKey also envisions using biometrics (like fingerprints, retinal scans, etc.). That way you can connect consumers’ physical identities to their digital identities.

It’ll be a whole new world of identity. No longer will hackers be able to steal your information. And it makes financial sense, too.

SecureKey did a study on Canada’s government call centers. The study showed the government would save $800 million using this new identity network. That’s just one use case.

The New Technology Behind Your Digital Identity

Will the U.S. follow Canada’s lead? I think it’s a distinct possibility.

Joyce gave a hint. He suggested a “modern cryptographic identifier.”

In other words, the blockchain.

And that’s exactly the technology SecureKey is using for its identity ecosystem. It runs on the IBM blockchain.

By design, there’s no central database or “honeypot” of data. The data is never visible to the operators of the network. And no one can see where your identity is used.

That means it won’t be long until Social Security numbers are a relic of the past.

Until then, the best course of action is to be vigilant. Take the few extra minutes each month to review your credit and financial reports.

And if you’re not sure if you were impacted by Equifax, check here.

Best regards,

Greg Wilson
Analyst, Palm Beach Confidential


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