- By Abby Ojeda, Staff Writer -
A massive digital hack that compromised almost half of Americans was discovered on July 29, 2017 when Equifax realized that social security numbers, credit card information, and driver’s license numbers had been stolen between May and July 2017, affecting 143 million people. Equifax is one of three national companies that gathers personal financial information and reports credit scores, often partnering with banks and credit card companies. So for students who have never directly given personal information to Equifax, it is probable that Equifax has their information.
Recently, it was discovered that there was an earlier data breach in March 2017 that Equifax did not make known to the public. Once they hired a security company to solve the matter, the larger breach occurred. According to a Bloomberg News article by Michael Riley, Anita Sharpe, and Jordan Robertson, the March breach is significant because it could explain “a series of unusual stock sales by Equifax executives” before the July data breach. There are ongoing investigations to determine if there were also instances of insider trading (what occurs when company members share nonpublic information about the company’s well-being to allow a select group to benefit from the stock market). On Tuesday September 26, C.E.O of Equifax Richard Smith resigned with sincere apologies.
So how does one know if they have been affected, and what can they do about the issue? According to a CNN Money article by Katie Lobosco, “Equifax will not be contacting everyone who was affected, but will send direct mail notices to those whose credit card numbers or dispute records were accessed.” However, the site http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com is a place to check if you have been affected, and will offer a security service if you give up your rights to sue the company. Business Insider’s Lauren Lyons Cole writes, “It’s safer to assume — and to act as though — your personal information is already out there, than to count on companies to protect your data.”
How does one accomplish Cole’s advice? First, she recommends using secure passwords, even for the accounts you might not use regularly (like the one you made for a random online order). She also advises to learn how to freeze your accounts if needed to prevent a hacker from draining your account or taking out a loan in your name. However, she strikes a balance between taking the Equifax breach seriously and realizing that in some ways these information thefts are “the new normal.” Cole states: “The only thing we can really do is the one thing we should be doing anyway: Stay on top of your money, and fix any issues as soon as you can. No one is going to be more interested in your financial situation than you are. Not even a hacker.”