Incoming Penn students have one more thing to feel secure about when they arrive in September.
Thanks to an initiative by the Undergraduate Assembly, students — beginning with the incoming class of 2014 — will no longer use the last four digits of their social security numbers for their PennCard Access Codes.
Future students will first be assigned a random number, then be prompted to change it into one that is both “secure and easy to remember,” according to UA chairman and College junior Alec Webley. The security measure is also extended to present students, who can change their codes on Penn Portal.
Currently, American Penn students living in on-campus residences are automatically assigned the last four digits of their SSNs to enter college housing. International students are given a randomly generated four-digit code.
Members of the UA found the situation “worrying,” Webley said.
“With just your date of birth and the last four digits of your SSN, your entire identity can be stolen,” he said.
The issue was brought up after a Cornell University employee lost a University laptop containing the SSNs of over 45,000 former and current students, exposing those affected to the possibility of identity theft.
“Thankfully, Penn is no Cornell,” Webley said, referring to the resolution that was passed unanimously last fall.
The proposal was “warmly received” by Penn President Amy Gutmann and the Office of the Provost. The UA worked with the offices of Audit, Compliance and Privacy; Business Services; Information Systems and Computing; and the Division of Public Safety over the last three months to ensure that SSNs are no longer used as the default code.
“It’s good that we’re anticipating threats and nipping them in the bud before they happen,” Webley said.