Equifax knows you – even if you don’t know them. They are one of the three large credit bureaus that collect information on all your financial transactions from banks, credit card companies, merchants, mortgage lenders, landlords, and utilities – just about every company to which you make payments or from which you borrow.
And much of that information, on almost every adult in America, has just been exposed to hackers. The potential impact is extensive. Information gained by the hackers includes addresses, social security numbers, birth dates, drivers license numbers, and even some credit card numbers.
Equifax says it will mail information to the roughly 200,000 people whose credit card information was also stolen. The others will have to find out for themselves if they were impacted by going to the Equifax site noted below.
The only truly surprising thing about the huge breach of security at Equifax is that it took so long to happen. Equifax allows protected public access to its data to individuals seeking information about their own credit reports. That access creates greater vulnerability to a breach. Equifax knew that.
The further irony is that Equifax offers its own form of credit information monitoring and protection. Now they will be giving it away free to as many as 143 million Americans, most of the adult population of this country.
The lesson: There is no perfect security in a digital world.
Criminals have turned their attention to credit data because there is a financial incentive. Card holders and most merchants are protected from losses because of fraud. The card issuers, mostly financial institutions with deep pockets, bear the cost of fraud. And they pass it on to consumers in the form of fees and higher interest rates.
But the global network of credit fraudsters finds it easy to reap the financial benefits. Even the IRS systems have been breached, and the hackers were rewarded with an ability to collect refunds that should have gone to individual taxpayers.
What if a wealthy rogue nation state or terrorist group decided the real financial reward is in disrupting the systems that make our economy grow – our electrical grid, the Internet,…
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