Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Forensic analysts and law enforcement authorities have found evidence of additional damages related to the Equifax Inc. data security breach initially disclosed Sept. 7, 2017. At the time, an estimated 145.5 million consumers were estimated to have been affected. This tally was updated March 1, 2018, when Equifax claimed to have found an additional 2.4 million individuals whose personally identifiable information had been compromised.
Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., Interim Chief Executive Officer at Equifax, noted that early stage investigators used Social Security numbers and names as key data elements to identify persons harmed by the attack. An external data provider subsequently helped the company identify a new group of victims by cross-referencing proprietary company records.
"This is not about newly discovered stolen data," he stated. "It's about sifting through the previously identified stolen data, analyzing other information in our databases that was not taken by the attackers, and making connections that enabled us to identify additional individuals."
Barros underscored his company's commitment to improving transparency and security. He said Equifax is offering free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services to all U.S. consumers. "We continue to take broad measures to identify, inform and protect consumers who may have been affected by this cyberattack," he added. The free protection and monitoring will be for one year. A free credit freeze is also an option. However, consumers must sign up before June 30.
An additional free service, Lock & Alert, enables users to lock and unlock their Equifax credit reports from their computers and connected devices. Equifax clarified on its website that locking an Equifax credit file will not preclude access to that file by other reporting agencies, stating, "Entities that may still have access to your Equifax credit file include: companies like Equifax Global Consumer Solutions, which provide you with access to your credit report or credit score, or monitor your credit file; federal, state, and local government agencies; companies reviewing your application for employment; companies that have a current account or relationship with you, and collection agencies acting on behalf of those whom you owe; for fraud detection purposes; and companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you."
Reflecting on the post-breach trend of offering free credit screening services to those affected, John Gunn, Chief Marketing Officer at Vasco Data Security Inc., remarked that data security breaches could become an effective marketing tool in the 21st century.
"Consumers seem to be very forgiving of companies that suffer breaches ‒ from Target, to Uber, to Equifax," he stated. "And with the new approach of using a breach as a coupon or free-trial distribution system, companies can actually profit from the breach, especially since it's the card holders or issuers that suffer the primary losses from a breach. Consider the millions of free trials that Equifax gained from its breach that would normally have cost them millions of dollars of marketing expenses."
Additional information about the Equifax data breach investigation can be found at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com .
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