It's been well documented just how easy it is for hackers to pilfer credit card numbers at blinding speed. While financial information is typically guarded by some security measures, your social security number -- the human barcode used to identify you as a citizen -- is far less safe from the preying eyeballs of digital thieves. A new video explains that it's remarkably easy for someone to ascertain the code using simple guesswork, and they don't need a PhD in online-theft to figure it out.
CGP Grey notes that if your card was issued before 2011, there's only a few steps someone could employ to steal your identity. The number's format makes it pretty simple: The first three digits correspond to the state in which the card was applied for -- something that's easy to glean if you list your residence on social media or a personal website. The last four numbers count up in order, and the middle two follow a normal pattern. A skilled thief who knows your time and location of birth can probably get the first five digits right by looking them up in a chart. The system is so antiquated, that subtracting one from the last four digits of your code probably equals the SSN of someone born in the same hospital around the same time as you.
Social security wasn't designed to function this way -- it was implemented to track what Americans pay into and deposit from the the government's only pension fund -- but as the population ballooned after the Great Depression, it sort of became a universal identification card. Whether you're applying for a job, lining up at the DMV or paying a hospital bill, your nine-digit SSN serves as a gateway into your identity and banking information -- even if you don't pay into the system. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯