How The Equifax Data Breach Could Affect The Rest of Your Life...
An estimated 143 million Americans, or nearly half of the U.S. population, had their personal data stolen in the Equifax cyber heist, according to the company.
The bad news is "this data will be used for years," says Avivah Litan, a security analyst at Gartner. "So, as a consumer, you need to be hyper-vigilant." When a credit card gets stolen, it's easy for the victim of the crime to shut down the card, get a new account number and avoid monetary loss. But financial peril rises and can persist for years when personal data likely to stay the same forever -- like Social Security numbers, names and dates of birth -- get stolen like it did in the cyber attack on credit-reporting service Equifax. Once hackers gain access to these key pieces of personal data -- which is akin to the DNA of a person's online digital self -- it is at the cyber thieves' disposal forever to cause harm.
— Equifax waited six weeks to disclose the breach. The firm says it discovered the breach, which it reports began in mid-May, on July 29. That’s six weeks that consumers could have been victimized without their knowledge and therefore left without the ability to take countermeasures. Equifax hasn’t explained the delay.
— Three Equifax executives sold shares after the discovery of the breach and before its public disclosure. They collected $1.8 million from the sales. The sales were made on Aug. 1 and 2, the third and fourth days after the breach was discovered. One was John Gamble, the firm’s chief financial officer. If the firm’s No. 2 executive wasn’t immediately informed about a catastrophic security breach, why not?
— Equifax already is trying to take advantage of the victims of its own breach. The firm set up a website allowing individuals to check if their information was potentially compromised, but it requires users to plug in their last name and last six digits of their Social Security numbers. That raises the question of why anyone would trust Equifax with even a partial Social Security number at this stage.
“The fact that the breached entity (Equifax) is offering to sign consumers up for its own identity protection services strikes me as pretty rich,” security expert Brian Krebs observed.
Even worse, the TrustedID terms of service state that enrollees give up their right to sue Equifax and prevents them from filing or joining a class action in the case of any dispute — they’ll have to go to arbitration as individuals, it places consumers at a disadvantage. People should be very, very cautious about signing up with Equifax’s service.The most important lesson in the Equifax breach is an old one: Consumers whose information is held by Equifax are not its customers or clients — they’re the product, and their personal information merely raw material to be exploited by the firm for its own profit.
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