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What India can learn from credit ratings agency Equifax’s data breach

American credit rating agency Equifax disclosed today that a vulnerability in one of its web applications has led to the leak of around 143 million Americans' social security numbers being compromised. The leak comprises millions of Americans' Social Security Numbers (SSNs), driving license numbers, and a couple hundred thousand credit card numbers, among other documents. The breach occurred from May to July, the company said. The company said that aside from some British and Canadian consumers' data, it has found no evidence that personal information of consumers in any other country has been impacted. It has also set up a website explaining the breach, and has set up a portal for Americans to check if they have been affected. Why SSN leaks are dangerous 143 million Americans, which is almost half of the US's population, now risk their SSNs ending up in the hands of identity thieves and, perhaps, the dark web. The Social Security Number system was first devised in the 1930s to audit American employees' deposits and withdrawals from a mandatory pension-esque fund. Eventually, it was appropriated by other parts of the government and by financial institutions as a way of verifying citizens' identities, and due to legal frameworks that later followed, it is now basically mandatory for US citizens to get a Social Security Number. Sound familiar? Unlike Aadhaar though, SSNs have little to no in-built security, and it's incumbent on the cardholder themselves to make sure that nobody gets their hands on their social security number — there is no biometric or OTP-based authentication…

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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