SSA again tests PEBES for Web accessibility

The
system won’t be reinstated until SSA is sure it will provide the best service,
SSA’s Cheezum said.





The Social Security Administration still wants to give citizens access to their
Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statements via an interactive Web site.


“We’re continuing to test and evaluate the PEBES system,” SSA
spokeswoman Carolyn Cheezum said.


“We’re exploring options into possibly providing the service again
online,” she said.


SSA had been testing an online PEBES application last year, but it pulled the plug on
the project in April 1997 because of concerns that was too simple to breach the system and
gain access to personal information.


During the month the PEBES app was available on SSA’s Web site at http://www.ssa.gov., the agency received 71,000 requests via
the Internet and provided 47,000 PEBES, Cheezum said.


Users could access a year-by-year breakdown of their earnings history and estimates of
their current and future Social Security benefits using the online app.


The administration has made the statements available by mail since 1988 to anyone who
mailed in a request form.


The PEBES online program required users to enter their names, Social Security numbers,
dates and locations of birth, and mothers’ maiden names to gain access. But privacy
advocates balked.


They argued that the five factors did not ensure against illegal access.


SSA originally had planned to make the online app available again by January. But it
postponed its plans to test the revamped PEBES app.


“SSA is not going to rush to reinstate the PEBES system until we’re certain
it will provide the best service to our customers,” Cheezum said.


“And at the same time, we want to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the
information that might be provided,” she said.


The tests will help SSA incorporate digital signatures and make the site easier to use,
Cheezum said.


SSA initially spent two years working on security protections before it put the site
online.


Some of the work performed included commissioning a study by the systems security team
at the Energy Department’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, Cheezum said.


Several security features were incorporated into the first PEBES app, including
encryption, Secure Sockets Layer protection and a firewall.  

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