Why 'Breathtaking' Equifax Breach May Be Worst One Ever

Amount of 'highly sensitive' data that was exposed may be unprecedented
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2017 10:50 AM CDT
'Breathtaking' Equifax Breach May Be Worst One Ever
This July 21, 2012, photo shows Equifax offices in Atlanta.   (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Almost half of the US population may have been affected by the massive Equifax data breach, with the credit bureau revealing the personal info for as many as 143 million customers may have been exposed. Even as a handful of its top execs face a barrage of criticism for selling nearly $2 million in shares just days after the hack was discovered, the company is scrambling to deal with the aftermath and alleviate customer concerns. CNET offers a primer of sorts as to what's going on, with more input from around the web:

  • From the POV of Ars Technica, this breach could be "the worst leak of personal info ever." That's not based on numbers alone, as recent Yahoo and eBay hacks resulted in more people affected. Instead, that label is earned from the "breathtaking amount of highly sensitive data it handed over to criminals," including full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and even driver's license numbers.

  • Two TechCrunch reporters note that an online portal where customers can find out if they've been affected has been less than desirable, and seems instead to push a credit monitoring service whose terms and conditions bar users from filing a class-action suit against Equifax. One of them decided to call Equifax's emergency response line to check on her own status—and her experience doesn't earn Equifax top customer-service marks. Bloomberg piles on, saying customers are being left "clueless" in their quest for answers.
  • Speaking of that online option: The Washington Post details a major problem with it. To find out if you've been affected, you're prompted to enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number versus the typical four, which a CTO for a cybersecurity firm calls "very unusual." People online are making fun of the idea of providing even more personal info to a company that just lost control of a whole lot of it.
  • John Biggs at TechCrunch has had enough of shoddy data security overall, noting that the "crass, callow, and lazy treatment of our digital data cannot stand." He's got some suggestions—including looking to Estonia for answers.
  • Cleveland.com and CNET offer useful tips on how to protect yourself in the interim, including being super-careful about what you post on social media.
  • How all of this is affecting Equifax's standing in the market: Company shares were down about 14% as of this writing, per MarketWatch.
(More Equifax stories.)

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