08 Sep 2017 Your Identity May No Longer Be Secure
If you are an adult and have any kind of account with a bank or credit card company, it is likely that some or all four elements of your personal identity have been compromised by hackers in this latest, most serious of all, cyber attack on Equifax, Inc. Worse, it happened during the months of May through July and we are just now learning about it.
Equifax is one of three large credit reporting bureaus that track consumer information and provide it to lenders, landlords, employers and others to help them determine financial responsibility. These bureaus retain all kinds of information about us, like rent payment history, previous addresses, salaries, credit payment histories, credit card numbers and most importantly, the four identity elements most often used to open financial and credit accounts; which are social security number, driver’s license number, birth date, and current address.
Equifax says that 143 million US consumers out of the 200 million they follow are impacted. That means that three of every four consumers tracked by Equifax has had their identity compromised. Equifax also said credit-card numbers for approximately 209,000 US consumers were accessed, as well as dispute documents with sensitive information for another 182,000 people.
UPDATE 9/9/2017 10:30am The company offers consumers the ability to check whether or not they have been impacted by the breach. But on Friday there was initial outrage from consumer protection advocates and congressional leaders that by using the website tool one forfeited his or her rights to participate in any class action lawsuits that might evolve from this incident. There was also considerable ambiguity as to whether one was impacted by the breach from a vague statement saying you ‘may’ be impacted. Since then the company has made the following changes:
- Consumers can immediately determine whether they were affected by the breach.
- The company’s arbitration clause and class-action waiver would not apply to this incident
- And an expanded call center with over 2,000 agents was also being established
If you wish to determine whether you have been impacted and/or you wish to sign up for their free credit monitoring services, here’s the link:
While the breach is potentially the most damaging information-wise, it is not the largest by number. A table in today’s Wall Street Journal takes us down a memory lane of painful reminders.
The Journal article points out that in addition to consumers being impacted, smaller lenders like community banks, credit unions, and online personal-loan lenders are more vulnerable to the crooks who have access to the stolen data. Big banks rely on additional identifying data in their application process.
You can be sure that some of the biggest tech firms like Microsoft, Google, Apple, perhaps even the government, have lots of smart people working on improved identity methods. Social Security numbers and birthdates have been used far too long and reside on too many databases to be effective any longer. It’s just a matter of time before all of this information will be widely available. It’s time for a 21st century secure method of identity able to stand up to seemingly superior technologies in the hands of the bad guys.