Social Security’s Online Payment System: A Hacker Target?

Social Security CardThe U.S. Social Security Administration is mandating that all payments to beneficiaries be in electronic form by March 1, 2013. This means that no one will receive a paper check in the mail each month as they have in the past.

This move was made to protect the beneficiaries from having their paper checks stolen from their mailboxes each month. “In 2010 more than 540,000 Social Security checks were reported lost or stolen and had to be reissued.” And to save the U.S. Government printing and postage costs. “The switch is expected to save the federal government more than $120 million in mail and paper fees in the first year.” The U.S. Treasury Department adds that this will also apply to those receiving “veterans benefits or other non-tax federal payments such as pensions.”

I have no problem with the U.S. Government saving money, and in fact, this move is probably long overdue; as many in the private sector have had their pay and pension payments switched to electronic payments long ago.

What does bother me is that the U.S. Government is now creating a very large target for cyber criminals to hack. Cyber criminals like large, lucrative targets. They are always looking for the best return on their efforts; thus they prey on the largest databases with the most money-making information stored in them. In this case, it may be the U.S. Treasury Department.

If cyber crooks were to hack into the U.S. Social Security beneficiary database of the Treasury Department after March 1, 2013, they would have access to enough personally identifiable information (PII) to easily steal the identity of each person on the database. It seems to me that they would have access to the person’s name, social security number, age, address, and bank account number (including the electronic funds transfer account numbers). A virtual treasure trove of PII with which to steal billions from the government and the beneficiaries.

Here’s hoping the U.S. Treasury has adequate cyber security protection to avoid the above scenario. However, in light of the fact that traditionally more secure U.S. Government departments such as the Department of Defense have been successfully hacked in the recent past; I have little confidence the Treasury is suitably protected. I hope I’m wrong.

Reference: AARP.org Bulletin

Be very careful…it’s dangerous out there.

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Paul

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and FreeByte.com

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Filed under Cybercrime, Internet, Internet Security, security, Warning

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