A major American credit reporting agency entrusted to safeguard personal financial information said Thursday hackers looted its system in a colossal breach that could affect nearly half the US population as well as people in Britain and Canada.
Equifax said that a hack it learned about on July 29 had the potential to affect 143 million US customers, and involved some data for British and Canadian residents.
The Atlanta-based company disclosed the breach in a release that did not explain why it waited more than a month to warn those affected about a risk of identity theft.
Filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission showed that three high-ranking Equifax executives sold shares worth almost $1.8 million in the days after the hack was discovered.
An Equifax spokesperson told AFP the executives “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time they sold their shares.”
Copies of SEC filings regarding the transactions were on an investor relations page at the company’s website.
Equifax collects information about people and businesses around the world and provides credit ratings used for decisions regarding loans and other financial matters.
It also touts a service protecting against identity theft.
“The fact that it is a credit company that people pay to be protected from breaches, and now they have been breached… it feels like a betrayal of trust to a point,” said Aires Security chief executive Brian Markus, whose firm specializes in computer network defenses.
He considered the breach “gigantic,” made worse by the fact that Equifax stores extensive personal information about people and keeps it up to date.
Markus wondered what level of responsibility Equifax is going to take if stolen information is used for fraud or identity theft, and advised people to enlist credit monitoring services to alert them to trouble.
– ‘Strikes at the heart’ –
Equifax released a statement saying that it learned of the breach on July 29 and “acted immediately” with the assistance of an independent cybersecurity firm to assess the impact.
“Criminals exploited a US website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files,” the statement said.
An internal investigation determined the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017, according to the company.
Equifax said the hackers obtained names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers from the database, potentially opening up victims to identity theft.
Full article: 143 Million Affected in Hack of U.S. Credit Agency (Security Week)