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January 2007

Face-Off: Schneier, Ranum debate privacy and personal information

Does secrecy help protect personal information? Marcus Ranum POINT Like most of you who read this, I'm pretty tuned in to computer security news. Between the litany of stories about lost data and stolen laptops, and the letter I got from the Veterans Administration in September, I thought it was time to do some math. By totaling the recent reports of exposed personal information, I have scientifically calculated that there are 15 Americans whose information has not yet been impacted. I wonder who they are. More to the point, I wonder why we're doing things the same old way when the same old way is obviously not working. Security practitioners will tell you until they're purple in the face that passwords are bad technique, but the financial and medical industries and the government have decided to rely on 9-digit passwords (your Social Security number) and 16-digit passwords (your credit card number) as the master keys for virtually everything. What we're seeing is abundant proof of the stupidity of that idea. There's an easy fix...

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