Equifax raises the im­pact of US data breach

The Malta Business Weekly - - FRONT PAGE -

Equifax has re­vealed 2.5 mil­lion more Amer­i­cans than pre­vi­ously thought may have had in­for­ma­tion com­pro­mised in a huge cy­ber se­cu­rity breach at the firm.

The credit re­port gi­ant said on Mon­day about 145.5 mil­lion of its US cus­tomers might have been af­fected, up from a pre­vi­ous es­ti­mate of 143 mil­lion.

The up­date came a day be­fore former boss Richard Smith tes­ti­fies in Congress about the at­tack.

Mr Smith apol­o­gised ahead of the hear­ing for the firm’s fail­ings.

Crit­ics say the com­pany failed to take proper steps to guard in­for­ma­tion - such as So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers, birth dates and ad­dresses - and waited too long to in­form the pub­lic.

Equifax dis­closed the at­tack last month, es­ti­mat­ing that about 400,000 Bri­tons and 100,000 Cana­di­ans may also have had data com­pro­mised.

On Mon­day, the firm raised its es­ti­mate for US cus­tomers, but low­ered it to only 8,000 Cana­di­ans after fur­ther investigation.

In re­marks pre­pared for Congress, which were pub­lished on Mon­day, Mr Smith urged the US to adopt new stan­dards for cus­tomer credit in­for­ma­tion.

Mr Smith, who re­signed last month, said the at­tack made him be­lieve con­sumers should have sole con­trol over when their credit in­for­ma­tion may be ac­cessed.

The tes­ti­mony from Equifax’s former chief ex­ec­u­tive and chair­man also of­fered a chronol­ogy of the in­ci­dent.

Mr Smith said the first at­tack hap­pened in May, with hack­ers tak­ing ad­van­tage of a soft­ware vul­ner­a­bil­ity that Equifax was warned about in March and did not ad­dress.

Equifax iden­ti­fied an in­tru­sion on July 29. Mr Smith said he learned about the prob­lem two days later.

An investigation or­dered by the com­pany re­vealed the enor­mity of the at­tack by mid-Au­gust.

Mr Smith said Equifax faced a “mas­sive” task to pre­pare to re­spond to cus­tomers. Even so, the firm was over­whelmed by calls after the breach be­came pub­lic, and faced prob­lems with the web­site it cre­ated to ad­dress cus­tomer com­plaints.

Equifax holds data on more than 820 mil­lion con­sumers as well as in­for­ma­tion on 91 mil­lion busi­nesses.

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