Equifax announced that a cybersecurity incident potentially impacting approximately 143 million U.S. consumers. According to Equifax, Criminals exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files. Based on the company’s investigation, the hacking occurred from mid-May through July 2017. The breach was not discovered for three months.
“Once again, we see an example of lack of security controls at companies in the US and across the globe,” said Jeff Jones, Managing Partner at Topgallant Partners, a Cyber Security Consulting Firm. “This should have been discovered much earlier and really demonstrates that business leaders are not taking the cyber threat seriously.”
The information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed. As part of its investigation of this application vulnerability, Equifax also identified unauthorized access to limited personal information for certain UK and Canadian residents. Equifax will work with UK and Canadian regulators to determine appropriate next steps. The company has found no evidence that personal information of consumers in any other country has been impacted.
Equifax says that they discovered the unauthorized access on July 29 of this year and acted immediately to stop the intrusion. The company promptly engaged a leading, independent cybersecurity firm that has been conducting a comprehensive forensic review to determine the scope of the intrusion, including the specific data impacted. Equifax also reported the criminal access to law enforcement and continues to work with authorities. While the company’s investigation is substantially complete, it remains ongoing and is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
“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,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard F. Smith. “We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations. We also are focused on consumer protection and have developed a comprehensive portfolio of services to support all U.S. consumers, regardless of whether they were impacted by this incident.”
Equifax has established a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers determine if their information has been potentially impacted and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. The offering, called TrustedID Premier, includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers – all complimentary to U.S. consumers for one year. The website also provides additional information on steps consumers can take to protect their personal information. Equifax recommends that consumers with additional questions visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com or contact a dedicated call center at 866-447-7559, which the company set up to assist consumers. The call center is open every day (including weekends) from 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. Eastern time.
In addition to the website, Equifax will send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents with personal identifying information were impacted. Equifax also is in the process of contacting U.S. state and federal regulators and has sent written notifications to all U.S. state attorneys general, which includes Equifax contact information for regulator inquiries.
Equifax has engaged a leading, independent cybersecurity firm to conduct an assessment and provide recommendations on steps that can be taken to help prevent this type of incident from happening again.
CEO Smith said, “I’ve told our entire team that our goal can’t be simply to fix the problem and move on. Confronting cybersecurity risks is a daily fight. While we’ve made significant investments in data security, we recognize we must do more. And we will.”0
Update: CEO Richard Smith was let go, and now he has to appear on Capital Hill at 3 Congressional Hearings about the breach and the suspicious timing of stock sales by three executives.
Equifax has also identified an IT Employee who will be the fall guy responsible for patching the vulnerability. Finally the IRS just issued Equifax with a nice contract to provide credit history of individuals to the IRS.