Print This Issue

One Step Ahead
May 8, 2007, Volume 53, No. 33

One Step Ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

SSN Clean Up Tools–Use Them & Protect the Penn Community

You’ve read about the hundreds of colleges, universities, retailers, banks and others that have had data security breaches– hacked systems, lost laptops, stolen backup tapes and the like–involving Social Security Numbers. You worry about this type of problem because:

• You can’t be sure whether you still have old SSNs in any of your desktop or server files, OR

• You think you need full SSNs to interface with other systems on campus, OR

• You need some type of identifier to make sure you’ve got the right “John Smith” and SSN is the best one out there, OR

• You don’t need to use SSNs, and you know you have some old ones, but you don’t know how to truly delete them.

• You actually do need to work with SSNs (legally required or necessary for certain third party transactions for example), but want to handle them responsibly.

Know the following:

Finding SSNs. Your local support provider can assist you in using automated tools to determine if a file containing SSNs is still on your desktop, laptop, or server. Contact your LSP.

Keeping SSNs to Interface with Other Systems?  Check Again. Many systems at Penn have been reconfigured to accept PennID in lieu of the SSN as a unique identifier (also sometimes a “key”). Contact the relevant system owner, or data administration at da-staff@isc.upenn.edu.

Converting SSNs to PennID. A new, free tool exists to convert files containing full SSNs to PennIDs. Contact the Office of Audit, Compliance, and Privacy at (215) 573-4492.

Deleting Unnecessary SSNs. Talk to your LSP for options.

Truncate/Restrict View Wherever Possible. If all else fails and you must continue to work with SSNs, truncate to show only the last four digits in as many “views” as possible. Truncating SSNs and limiting access to only those people with a need-to-know are important ways to minimize risk.


For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.

Almanac - May 8, 2007, Volume 53, No. 33