Equifax said personal details of up to 143 million US consumers were potentially accessed by hackers between mid-May and July. Its shares fell 6% following the disclosure. The company said criminals had accessed details including names and social security numbers. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 people, and certain documents for another 182,000 were also accessed. The company has set up a website to help people figure out if they are among those whose information was compromised. Equifax discovered the hack on July 29, and has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate.
The company said there was no evidence of a breach into its core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases.
Three senior executives at Equifax, including the company’s chief financial officer, sold almost $2 million worth of the company’s shares just days after it learned of a hack that might’ve exposed the personal details of almost half of the US population. The sales were first reported by Bloomberg News’s Anders Melin who said none of the sales appear to be part of pre-scheduled trading plans that allow executives to sell stock at regular intervals. All of the executives still owned thousands of shares of the company after the sales were completed, filings show.
Equifax said in an emailed statement to Business Insider that the executives “had no knowledge” that an intrusion had occurred at the time they sold their shares.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the scale of the hacking “represents a real threat to the economic security of Americans,” and suggested Congress should reconsider data-protection policies so large companies like Equifax “have fewer incentives to collect large, centralized sets of highly sensitive data like SSNs and credit card information on millions of Americans.”
The breach could be one of the biggest in the United States, Reuters reported. Last December, Yahoo said more than one billion user accounts were compromised in August 2013, while in 2014 eBay had urged 145 million users to change their passwords following a cyber attack.
Here’s the full statement on the breach from Equifax:
“Equifax Inc. today announced a cybersecurity incident potentially impacting approximately 143 million U.S. consumers. Criminals exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files. Based on the company’s investigation, the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017. The company has found no evidence of unauthorized activity on Equifax’s core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases. The information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed. As part of its investigation of this application vulnerability, Equifax also identified unauthorized access to limited personal information for certain UK and Canadian residents. Equifax will work with UK and Canadian regulators to determine appropriate next steps. The company has found no evidence that personal information of consumers in any other country has been impacted.
Equifax discovered the unauthorized access on July 29 of this year and acted immediately to stop the intrusion. The company promptly engaged a leading, independent cybersecurity firm that has been conducting a comprehensive forensic review to determine the scope of the intrusion, including the specific data impacted. Equifax also reported the criminal access to law enforcement and continues to work with authorities. While the company’s investigation is substantially complete, it remains ongoing and is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. ‘This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard F. Smith. “We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations. We also are focused on consumer protection and have developed a comprehensive portfolio of services to support all U.S. consumers, regardless of whether they were impacted by this incident.’
Equifax has established a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers determine if their information has been potentially impacted and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. The offering, called TrustedID Premier, includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers – all complimentary to U.S. consumers for one year. The website also provides additional information on steps consumers can take to protect their personal information. Equifax recommends that consumers with additional questions visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com or contact a dedicated call center at 866-447-7559, which the company set up to assist consumers. The call center is open every day (including weekends) from 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. Eastern time.
In addition to the website, Equifax will send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents with personal identifying information were impacted. Equifax also is in the process of contacting U.S. state and federal regulators and has sent written notifications to all U.S. state attorneys general, which includes Equifax contact information for regulator inquiries.
Equifax has engaged a leading, independent cybersecurity firm to conduct an assessment and provide recommendations on steps that can be taken to help prevent this type of incident from happening again. CEO Smith said, ‘I’ve told our entire team that our goal can’t be simply to fix the problem and move on. Confronting cybersecurity risks is a daily fight. While we’ve made significant investments in data security, we recognize we must do more. And we will.'”