Equifax Announces Data Breach That Affects 143M Americans

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Equifax has announced that a data breach has compromised the data of 143 million Americans. Equifax, one of the largest credit rating and reporting companies in the United States, said the hack was discovered on July 29.

Insider selling not related to Equifax data breach

In a statement released after market hours on Thursday, the company said hackers discovered a vulnerability on its website and accessed certain files.

“Criminals exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files,” the agency said.

Equifax Chief Executive Richard Smith stated that the incident was “disappointing” 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,” he added.

Smith further stated that Equifax had been the leader in managing and protecting data, and the company will conduct a thorough review of its overall security operations.

According to the SEC filing, Equifax Chief Financial Officer John Gamble Jr., Workforce Solutions President Rodolfo Ploder and U.S. Information Solutions President Joseph Loughran sold approximately $2 million shares in the company just a few days after the cyber-attack. Whether their stake sales were in response to the data breach is not known, reports CNBC. However, Equifax stated that all three executives sold very small percentages of their stakes, and they were not aware of the data breach at the time those shares were offloaded.

Equifax has set up a website where individuals can learn more about the attack and understand how it affects them. They can also register under the identity theft protection and file monitoring services.

It is not the first data breach concerning Equifax. Last year, hackers broke into the W-2 tax and salary data via the Equifax website. Then in the beginning of this year, hackers again breached the W-2 tax data from an Equifax subsidiary, TALX, which offers online payroll, tax and human resource services to some of the biggest businesses in the country, notes The Times.

A severe data breach

This is among the largest data breaches reported in the United States. Though other data breaches eclipse this latest Equifax one in size, the Equifax attack is worse in terms of severity, as the hackers got their hands on some very sensitive data that could unlock bank accounts, medical records, etc. Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst at Gartner, stated that on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of risk, the recent breach can be ranked at 10, notes The Times.

“This is about as bad as it gets. If you have a credit report, chances are you may be in this breach. The chances are much better than 50 percent,” Pamela Dixon, executive director for the nonprofit research group World Privacy Forum, told Digital Trends. According to an FBI spokesperson, the agency is aware and tracking the situation.

In addition, a press release from the office of U.S. Senator Mark Warren stated that the event raises questions about the role of the government in responding to the ongoing threat to personal information. Warren added that such attacks are a real threat to the economic security of Americans and that citizens need stronger legislation for protection against data theft.

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