Summary: In what is likely the biggest data disaster of 2017, credit ratings agency Equifax was recently breached by hackers, causing the loss of personal financial details of over 143 million people.
What Information was Accessed by the Equifax Hack
The Equifax cyber attack was catastrophic, releasing social security numbers, credit card data, and other sensitive information that could be used easily to steal the identities and ruin the finances of its customers. In a largely unsurprising move, the hacker group responsible is asking for a $2.6 million ransom to be paid in bitcoin.
While the data was kept in the US, customers from the UK and other countries will be affected as well. So far, Equifax has remained silent on how much of this data was stored overseas, making it difficult to tell the extent of the damage. The response to the Equifax data breach was harsh, especially because the company took forty days to alert the public. Moreover, it was discovered later some Equifax executives had sold parts of their shares in the company before the delayed announcement.
Equifax and other credit reporting bureaus are lofty, but valuable targets for hackers. This successful breach was a dream come true for the fraudsters of the world, who will have troves of sensitive information available to them as a result. There have been thefts of greater size, such as the Yahoo attacks that took place in 2016, but none with the potential for such large consequences.
How can you find out if you were affected by the Equifax Cyber Attack?
The Equifax cyber attack affects millions in the US. Customers can find out if they were affected by the breach by going to Equifax’s website and entering some personal information. In the meantime, the company has recommended that all customers get a credit report immediately from them and other credit bureaus like TransUnion and Experian. This is both to keep watch on one’s credit and to preempt hackers, who may open new credit reporting accounts with the information they’ve stolen, to further confuse the reimbursement process. Many security experts have recommended finding strong identity theft protection,
While the dust settles, the government is getting their hands dirty as well. In the past, the US government has expressed their concern that the eventual recipients of this data may be other global superpower like China, who could use it to conduct cyber warfare more effectively.
What can you do if you were affected by the Equifax hack?
If you fear that you’ve been a victim of identity theft from the Equifax hack, there is no need to wait to find out. You can take proactive steps to learn how to protect your credit and identity, and avoid any damaging fallout.
- Sign up for an identity theft protection program: Despite being hacked, Equifax offers customers a free identity theft solution that lets them check to see if their information was part of the breach, and gives them some solid tools to defend themselves, including a credit lock option. Alternatively, you can explore some of the best identity theft protection services in the market and find one that fits your needs and budget. Please visit Allclear ID review, ID Watchdog review, Identity Fraud review, and Experian Identityworks review.
- Examine all your credit reports: Because of the lag between when the Equifax hack occurred and when it was announced, it is hard to tell if activity will show up now or already has. You can request a free annual credit report which covers all three bureaus, or use your identity protection service to review them simultaneously. Be sure to immediately report any activity that looks suspicious to avoid any long-term damage to your credit score.
- Freeze your credit: Even if you do not find any suspicious activity you can still be a target for fraudsters. To ensure that your credit reports will be safe, you can request that they be frozen to prevent any new activity or changes from being made. You can call each of the three major bureaus and request that they be frozen, and will receive a PIN to unfreeze them later.
- Create fraud alerts: most of the top identity theft programs available offer automated credit monitoring, which constantly scan your credit reports for any activity. These will immediately alert you of any suspicious activity, or if your personal information is being changed without your consent. Be sure to find a service that protects all three of your credit reports.
These steps are quick, easy, and can save you major headaches and financial troubles down the road. However, the most crucial tool you have and the first step you should always take is understanding what is identity theft. Protect yourself and your loved ones and prevent the Equifax data breach from impacting you.