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SSN security

August 1, 2009

imagesFollowing up, sort of, on 30 July’s post, an activist in Virginia, BJ Ostergren, is placing the Social Security numbers and other sensitive information online of various government officials.  This information, evidently, was used by a scammer in Ghana in an attempt to extort $30,000 from Florida Congressman Robert Wexler.

Around July 10, just before Barack Obama’s landmark trip to Accra, Ghana, a man from that country allegedly calling himself “Henry Paulson” phoned the office of Congressman Robert Wexler, a Democrat of Florida. He let the office know that he had the congressman and his wife’s Social Security numbers and wanted $30,000 wired to a branch of Barclay’s bank in Accra–or else, he’d put the numbers on the internet for criminals to use. The Ghanaian extorter supposedly recited their Socials over the phone to make his point.

While Ms. Ostergren has a point — sensitive information is being published on the web by anonymous public officials for all to see and exploit – she’s also creating a one-stop shop for identity thieves to use.

For example, I would guess that an enterprising person could put together schematics for a nuclear bomb based on public information and then place it on the Internet.  After all, hydrogen bomb schematics were published in 1979 by one magazine based on public information leading to the landmark case US v. The Progressive.  So, why make it easier for the bad guys to burn the good?

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