Computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have figured out how to predict Social Security numbers from publicly accessible birth data with frightening accuracy. The researchers analyzed a public information source known as the "Death Master File," which includes birth data and SSNs for people who have died. The scientists found that in many instances, if you know the date and state in which a person was born, you can deduce their SSN.
With just two attempts, the researchers correctly guessed the first five digits of SSNs for 60 percent of deceased Americans born between 1989 and 2003. With fewer than 1,000 attempts, they could identify the entire nine digits for 8.5 percent of the group.
Social Security Numbers Deduced From Public Data (Wired Science)
There's only a few short steps between making a statistical prediction about a person's SSN and verifying their actual number, Acquisti said. Through a process called "tumbling," hackers can exploit instant online credit approval services -- or even the Social Security Administration's own verification database -- to test multiple numbers until they find the right one. Although these services usually block users after several failed attempts, criminals can use networks of compromised computers called botnets to scan thousands of numbers at a time.
"A botnet can be programmed to try variations of a Social Security number to apply for an instant credit card," Acquisti said. "In 60 seconds, these services tell you whether you are approved or not, so they can be abused to tell whether you've hit the right social security number."
Predicting Social Security numbers from public data: Abstract (text) and full article (PDF) (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
That point of light between Saturn’s rings is Earth, captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on April 12. More about the image here at NASA JPL. It reminds me of the last photo taken by the Voyager I spacecraft before engineers shut off its imaging systems. Carl Sagan had persuaded NASA to turn Voyager I’s cameras […]
As AI improves, the mystery of consciousness interests more programmers and physicists.
Most of us need a computer interface implanted in our brains like we need a hole in our head. That said, there are benefits to bridging the gap between mind and machine. Joel Murphy is the founder of OpenBCI, an inexpensive, and non-invasive, brain-computer interface (BCI) platform. People have used OpenBCI to control robots, compose […]
Even the most expensive pair of hi-fi headphones can’t match the feeling of bass rumbling through your body at a live show. That’s why music aficionados designed The Basslet, an accessory that reproduces that sensation from your wrist. Does it make your whole body shake with deep subs? Not really, because that would be terrifying, but […]
They probably just sleep a lot. But still, you can remotely keep an eye on them when you’re at work and missing them deeply with this HD monitor from Kodak.If you have a new puppy that destroys everything in sight, or you just want to be a little more security-conscious, this WiFi camera is a […]
Thinking of a business idea is the easy part. Doesn’t even have to be a “good” idea, you can still get people to throw money at a non-existent venture, but to do that you need to at least have something even resembling a viable business plan. Why doesn’t anyone do it then? Because building that semi-viable […]