Monday, September 11, 2017

DATA SECURITY - The Equifax Hack

"Hackers accessed personal data from 143 million Equifax customers.  Here's what we know." by Erica R. Hendry, PBS NewsHour 9/7/2017
Equifax, a major credit reporting agency, announced Thursday that hackers had gained access to personal data from approximately 143 million of its customers.

Here's what we know.

What happened?

Sometime between mid-May and July, hackers breached an Equifax web application, gaining access to the names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers and, in some cases, driver's license numbers of some 143 million customers, the company said in a blog post Thursday.

Equifax discovered the breach July 29.  The company says it has “no evidence of unauthorized activity on Equifax's core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases.”

Who's affected?

Equifax is one of the three major credit tracking companies in the country.

The number of customers affected in this breach amounts to nearly half of the entire U.S. population, which was 324 million in a U.S. census count in January, CNBC points out.

Along with the sensitive personal data, hackers also gained access to credit card numbers of 209,000 U.S. customers and documents related to credit report disputes from another 182,000 American consumers.

TechCrunch says citizens of Canada and the UK were also affected by the breach.

How bad is this?

As TechCrunch put it:  “pretty bad.”

Reporter Ron Miller writes:

This is not the worst breach of all time by a long shot in terms of pure numbers.  That distinction goes to Yahoo, now part of Oath (which was acquired by our parent company, Verizon).  They had a leak involving more than a billion users.

But this leak is particularly worrisome because Equifax is a credit reporting service and tracks a history of your consumer life, credit cards, credit scores and more — and it gives the black market a potential gold mine of information about people's financial lives.

“In addition to the number [of victims] being really large, the type of information that has been exposed is really sensitive,” said Beth Givens, executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, told the Washington Post.  “All in all, this has the potential to be a very harmful breach to those who are affected by it.”

What's next?

Equifax's stock fell 9 percent after the news broke, USA Today noted.

The company has set up a website — — for consumers to see whether, and how much of, their data was breached.  It's offering free credit monitoring to all those affected by the hack.

Meanwhile, law enforcement and an independent cybersecurity firm are investigating the scope of the hack and how it occurred.  They're expecting to release their findings in the coming weeks.

"Did the Equifax hack put your personal data at risk?  Here's what to do now." PBS NewsHour 9/8/2017


SUMMARY:  Half of all Americans could have had their sensitive data compromised by a security breach at the credit reporting agency Equifax.  William Brangham joins John Yang to discuss what happened and what consumers should do to safeguard their credit.

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