The Equifax data breach reported in late July potentially impacted 143 million people and may be the most massive in history. The FBI, the FTC and the US Justice Department are all conducting investigations, and as the story continues to unravel, the lack of press coverage is astonishing. Could it be true that Americans are more interested in the political satire of Trump bashing and the Emmys than the implications of millions of people’s private data being stolen? Well if you live on the left or rely on mainstream media for your news, the answer to that question is a big fat yes.
Equifax officials disclosed to the public on September 7 that it discovered a security breach on July 29. There are many questions regarding the timeline of the incident and the announcement. Cisco had sent warnings to users of the susceptible software on March 8, stating the urgency to install patches to fix the problem. While no one seems to know the full extent of what happened at Equifax between March and the end of July, it is possible the patch was installed and not thoroughly tested or not applied across all platforms. What is known is that by the time company officials became aware of the problem, it was too late.
There have been suspicions within the information-security industries that Equifax was more vulnerable because they use centralized systems for storage, while the industry standards have called for spreading the information across various platforms. This practice reduces that chance of losing combinations of key personal data in a one-time hack.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday:
“Much remains unknown about the hack attack and how it burrowed so deeply inside the company. Investigators, security experts and Equifax itself are focusing on what the company did or didn’t do right in the run-up to the massive intrusion, including the company’s response to the flaw found by Cisco.
Alex Holden, chief information security officer of identity-theft monitoring company Hold Security LLC, says Equifax has long been considered a target for identity thieves. Last week, Hold [sic] said it discovered it was possible to access an Equifax-operated employee portal in Argentina by using the easily guessed username and password combination admin/admin.”
Senior Execs Forced to Retire Amid Accusations of Insider Trading
Equifax announced late last week the retirement effective immediately of Susan Mauldin, the company’s chief security officer and David Webb, its chief information officer. A common way of handling these types of problems in corporate America is to appease board of directors and the general public by finding scapegoats and paying them large retirement settlements in hopes of making the problem go away. The practice is nothing short of hush money. It makes one wonder. Whatever happened to termination for cause?
To add insult to injury around the mismanagement of what was supposed to be “secure data,” The U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether top officials violated insider trading laws. Equifax executives sold shares worth almost $1.8 million in early August just a few weeks before the company publicly disclosed the incident. Let’s hope this investigation airs all the dirty laundry, as the victims here are the millions of Americans who had no choice but to trust Equifax. It could be years before we know the full impact, if ever.
Those Who Purchased Extra Security Were First to be Violated
It is tricky because not everyone chooses to do business with Equifax or either of the other credit reporting agencies. Most of us end up having our loan activity or applications for credit sent to the bureaus by current or potential lenders. Then there are others who purchase credit monitoring and identity theft products directly from these companies as an added level of security.
Ironically, the very people who bought Equifax products for more security were the first to report unusual activity to the company in late July. The influx of calls reporting suspicious movement on protected accounts gave rise to identifying a major problem. Between the end of July and first week in September, callers not already enrolled in Equifax security programs report being sold protection packages to ensure their safety against these types of intrusions. After the public announcement, in a move to deal with a negative public image and plummeting stock prices, the company generously began to offer the same packages at no cost. Equifax is reporting that 11 million people have taken advantage of the free offer. Go figure.
Freezing Credit May be the Best Option
Another free option when it comes to protecting private information is to freeze your credit, which doesn’t allow the agencies to send reports if inquiries are made using your data. This process can be more onerous, as you must take additional steps to unfreeze it when and if you decide to apply for credit. It depends on how determined you are to secure your information and how often you apply for loans.
Equifax looks to be a corporate conglomerate that has taken advantage of the American public in a clandestine style. Accusations point to possible negligence and corruption in handling the very product they are responsible for protecting: our personal information. The Equifax breach and its developing tentacles is an important story and one that we at Liberty Nation will continue to monitor and report on even if the established media decides to ignore it.