Removing Social Security Numbers from daily use at RIT
By Dave Pecora
|Dave Pecora is associate director, Information and Technology
We live in an age of numbers and codes. User IDs, passwords, PINs,
and e-mail addresses are just a few of the codes that have become
indispensable to modern life. The purpose of each one is essentially
for a computerized system to recognize you, understand who you
are, and determine what you are allowed to do.
As computerization exploded in the 1970s and ’80s, Social
Security numbers (SSN) became extremely useful as a means of
identifying people. But with the volume of transactions in the
modern age that are available online, SSN information has become
the No.1 target for identity thieves.
The number of attempts to steal Social Security numbers has grown
at an alarming rate. This has resulted in a rash of new legislation.
As of January, the National Conference of State Legislatures
reports that 35 states have either passed or have pending legislation
related to the theft or compromise of Social Security numbers
or other personal information.
Much of this legislation regulates what organizations must do
to inform individuals when security breaches occur.
As a result, limiting the use of Social Security numbers has
become a center point in the battle against identity theft.
Changing the University ID
A new number – the RIT University ID – will replace
the Social Security Number as the most commonly used unique
identifying number for transactions on campus. Use of the new ID
will completely replace use of the SSN in many cases.
The project is massive – over 900 programs supported by
the division of Information and Technology Services (ITS) alone
need to be modified. “We are committed to doing what’s
necessary to protect the sensitive information we keep in the core
systems of the university,” says Dave Hostetter, associate
CIO of ITS and the project champion. “It’s a matter
of trust. Expectations are high, and we intend to live up to them.”
One of the most affected departments is the Registrar’s
Office, which has responsibility for the maintenance of course
schedules, grades, and ID card information.
“This will require a great deal of effort and planning,” says
Joe Loffredo, registrar. “We will need to print a new
ID card for every student, faculty and staff member at RIT.
But it absolutely needs to be done to protect people’s
The project has been identified as “the top ITS initiative
until it is completed,” according to Diane Barbour, chief
information officer for RIT. “While many of our projects
are very important to the university,” she stated “this
is such a massive effort, and we felt the need to make it clear
that this is our number one priority.”
The new University ID number will be a nine-digit number, but
will not match any valid SSN – present or future. ID numbers number
will be randomly generated – they will not be sequential – for
A campus-wide project – named the Student ID Replacement
Project or “SIRP” – has been formed to manage
the effort. (Replacement ID numbers for faculty and staff are also
included in the project’s scope, despite the name).
A task force made up of representatives from all of the colleges
and divisions of RIT has been planning since September.
A New University ID Card
The new card will be different in several ways. The most
obvious change is in orientation – the new card will be
portrait, not landscape. This will make it easier to hang it
from a lanyard, a practice which has grown at the university
as a means of identification. The University ID will still be
stored in a barcode and in a magnetic stripe on the card as it
is today. The barcode, however, will be displayed on the back
instead of the front.
Since everyone will be getting a new ID
number, everyone must get a new ID card. University IDs and cards
for faculty and staff will be generated and pre-printed by the
Registrar’s Office. University
IDs and cards will also be generated and pre-printed for any RIT
student who registers for classes in the summer quarter. These
cards will be available for pickup at the Registrar’s
Office starting on May 1.
Alumni who have been issued RIT ID cards for use of campus
facilities also can obtain new cards at the Registrar’s Office starting
Housing Operations will be distributing new ID cards
for returning fall students in residence halls, apartments
and the RIT Inn, starting Aug. 15. All other students
returning for fall quarter will pick up their new ID
cards from the Registrar’s Office starting
The new RIT ID cards will become active sometime
during the week immediately following the May 2006
commencement ceremony. Information forums about the
transition are being held this spring.
For more information on the project,
visit the Web site: www.rit.edu/its/initiatives/sirp.