A few days ago, a major hack happened at the credit reporting agency Equifax, which is one of the three major clearinghouses for Americans’ credit histories. They stated that this major cyber security breach means that hackers, unfortunately, gained access to sensitive personal data like Social Security numbers, birth dates and home addresses for up to 143 million Americans. If you didn’t know, Equifax is one of the largest US based credit reporting agencies that collect and analyze detailed records of financial data for records of a wide range of consumers worldwide.
What was even more shocking about this news is the statement from the agency that the intrusion begun in May and continued until it was finally discovered in late July. Thanks to the “website application vulnerability” which hackers exploited, personal data about British, Canadian and American consumers are in the hands of God knows who. A real threat to the people is a really sensitive data like Social Security numbers and birth dates which are often used mainly to commit identity frauds, but other crimes as well. In the same hack attack, Equifax lost nearly 209.000 consumers credit card numbers and so far the unspecified number of driver licenses, but an alleviating circumstance is that no intrusions on “core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases” at Equifax were discovered.
Some of the experts commented on this and among them was Beth Givens, executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, who stated that “The type of information that has been exposed is really sensitive. All in all, this has the potential to be a very harmful breach to those who are affected by it.” But the question which is on everyone’s lips is why in God’s name did the company waited six weeks to disclose the hack. Maybe it has something to do with the stock market because according to Bloomberg News Chief Financial Officer John W. Gamble, Joseph M. Loughran III the president of U.S. information solutions, and Rodolfo O. Ploder, the president of workforce solutions apparently sold large amounts of their shares of Equifax stock and totaled in nearly $1.8 million in a matter of days after the breach was discovered on July 29. This was confirmed by The Washington Post, and they based it on Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
To defend themselves a company spokeswoman, Ines Gutzmer stated: “The three executives who sold a small percentage of their Equifax shares on Tuesday, August 1, and Wednesday, August 2, had no knowledge that an intrusion has occurred at the time they sold their shares.” Another thing that set the red alarm is the plummet of companies shares 12% in after-hours trading. Last Thursday the company gave a statement where they said that they will alert all of those who were affected by this unwelcome event, and they went a step further by setting up a special web page – equifaxsecurity2017.com – which has a task of simplifying the breach to consumers and checking whether they were affected or not. They are also offering one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to all of those who have been affected by this hack.
Richard F. Smith, the firm’s chief executive, published a statement on his website saying “This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes. We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations.” Equifax also alerted the local law enforcement who are investigating the breach, plus, they also hired an independent cyber security research firm which has a task of assessing the scope of the intrusion. Hopefully, this will all end well and without a lot of hassle for the people affected by this cyber attack.