EQUIFAX: $3.144 billion Company got hacked

Equifax Inc. is a consumer credit reporting agency in the United States, considered one of the three largest American credit agencies along with Experian and the TransUnion. Founded in 1899, Equifax is the oldest of the three agencies and gathers and maintains information on over 800 million consumers and more than 88 million businesses worldwide.

On Thursday EQUIFAX revealed that hackers looted its system in a colossal breach between mid-May and July that could affect nearly half the US population as well as people in Britain and Canada. They said that a hack, they learned about on July 29 had the potential to affect 143 million US customers, & involved some data for British and Canadian residents.

Cyber criminals stole information including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some driver’s licenses. Additionally, credit card numbers for about 209,000 people were exposed, as was “personal identifying information” to roughly 182,000 customers involved in credit report disputes.

Filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission showed that three high-ranking Equifax executives sold shares worth almost $1.8 million in the days after the hack was discovered.

Equifax will not be contacting everyone who was affected but will send direct mail notices to those whose credit card numbers or dispute records were accessed.

The company suggests you sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. It is providing free service for one year through TrustedID Premier — whether or not you’ve been affected by the breach.

“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do,” said company chairman and chief executive, Richard Smith.

“I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes.”

He added that Equifax is reviewing its overall security operations.

Equifax said it had established a website to enable consumers to determine if they are affected and would be offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to customers.

The company is the latest to announce a major breach. Yahoo last year disclosed two separate cyber attacks which affected as many as one billion accounts.

More than 400 million accounts were affected by a breach disclosed last year at the hookup site Adult Friend Finder, and other firms affected in recent years included Heartland Payment Systems and retail giant Target.

“Every company out there is potentially susceptible in today’s cyber landscape,” Markus said of hacking attacks, some even by nation states.

“These incidents can put companies out of business.”

Equifax shares were down more than 13 percent to $124 in after-market trades that followed news of the hack.

Here’s the full statement on the breach from Equifax:

“Equifax Inc. today announced a cybersecurity incident potentially impacting approximately 143 million U.S. consumers. Criminals exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files. Based on the company’s investigation, the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017. The company has found no evidence of unauthorized activity on Equifax’s core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases. 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 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.'”

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