(Bloomberg) The hackers who infiltrated Anthem Inc. made off with one of the most prized possessions in computer crime: the Social Security numbers of as many as 80 million customers of the nation's second-biggest health insurer.
The nine-digit numbers the U.S. government has doled out since 1936 typically follow people from birth to death. There are 450 million combinations in use, and by learning yours, hackers can obtain credit cards in your name, wire money from your bank accounts, or learn enough from telephone records or medical histories to trick you into divulging more information.
"With the data elements compromised in this breach, criminals have had the keys to the kingdom," said Paul Stephens, director of policy for Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a San Diego-based advocacy group. When companies or agencies use Social Security numbers to both identify individuals and authenticate they are who they say, it's "a recipe for disaster."
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