Enormous Equifax Data Breach Could Impact 143 Million People

By now you've probably heard of the massive data breach that struck Equifax, one of three major consumer credit reporting agencies. Let's be clear: This is a HUGE deal! Experts suspect 143 million American customers may have been affected (for perspective, this could impact up to 44 percent of the American population).

How did this happen? What was stolen? And what can you do to protect yourself and your business? CyberPolicy discusses these questions and more below. Also, remember that you can protect your company against data breaches and their consequences with cyber insurance from a reputable provider. Start with a free quote from CyberPolicy.

Panic in the U.S.A.
In the past few years, massive data breaches have become something of a norm. When you hear the term \"data breach\" your mind might instantly jump to the incidents that hobbled Target, ended Ashley Madison and rattled Yahoo. But while the two Yahoo data breaches undoubtedly affected more people (over 1 billion accounts), the Equifax breach is far more severe.

As the New York Times writes, rather bluntly: \"Equifax, based in Atlanta, is a particularly tempting target for hackers. If identity thieves wanted to hit one place to grab all the data needed to do the most damage, they would go straight to one of the three major credit reporting agencies.\"

It's true. Hackers stole a trove of sensitive information including Social Security numbers (SSNs), driver's license numbers, names, birthdates, addresses and, in some cases, even credit card numbers. This is more than enough to steal someone's identity several times over.

Or as one Twitter user put it, \"I'm still trying to wrap my head around the sheer scale of the #Equifax breach. They might as well reissue SSNs to every citizen.\"

While new details will likely come to light in the coming days and weeks, attackers appear to have gained access through a weak point in the company's web software. Believe it or not, this is the third major cyberattack for the agency since 2015. Yikes!

So, what now? Well, you can start by investigating whether your personal or financial information was affected by visiting https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/. This will require your last name and the last six digits of your SSN.

However, the Washington Post warns that by signing up for Equifax's help site, you could risk giving up your legal rights: \"Buried in the terms of service is language that bars those who enroll in the Equifax checker program from participating in any class-action lawsuits that may arise from the incident.\" Some consumers and experts even worry about the troubling revelation that several Equifax executives sold stock after the breach was discovered, but before it was disclosed.

In light of this information, some consumers may feel more comfortable monitoring their own credit reports through another service or by putting a proactive freeze on their credit.

Businesses of all sizes would be smart to learn from Equifax's mistakes. First, ensure your web-based software is up to date on all the latest security patches. Next, if your company stores sensitive customer data (such as passwords, personal information or financial information) be sure that it is safe within an encrypted cloud or on-premises storage solution. Finally, invest in a cyber insurance safety; after all, it's just smart planning.

As mentioned above, we will likely see more news updates on the Equifax breach for weeks to come. In the meantime, do your organization (and your customers) a favor by visiting CyberPolicy today!

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