The credit reporting agency Equifax has been in the news a great deal lately, and not for positive reasons. A business that generates billions of dollars in revenue each year, Equifax has recently succumbed to the kind of digital attack that regularly affects far smaller companies.
There have been some suggestions that Equifax was negligent in protecting the personal information that it took such pains to collect. What has been less clear to many observers is just what was stolen and who the loss will affect.
A Confusing, Murky Situation, Not Just Because of the Hackers
Part of the problem has been the seeming reluctance of Equifax itself to say more than absolutely necessary about the incident. The company waited nearly five weeks before alerting the public about the breach, meaning that the criminals involved could have been making illicit use of personal information all the while.
In fact, recent reports suggest that the same group of hackers successfully attacked Equifax many months before, although they do not seem to have penetrated as deeply at that time. Even then, the company never said a word about the earlier problems until it was forced to do so after details leaked out from another source.
The Vast Majority of Equifax Hack Victims Lost Personal Information
While it certainly would have been preferable for Equifax to be more forthcoming about its problems, the damage related to its reticence has already been done. What Americans are now grappling with individually is the question as to just how much the hack will affect each of them personally.
In most cases, the information lost will have been confined to personal details including addresses, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers. This alone means that more than a hundred and forty million Americans will be far more in danger of identity theft than in the past, a problem that should not be overlooked.
On the other hand, credit card data of some unspecified number of Equifax customers was apparently also leaked, as well. While this might seem like an even more pressing concern, the fact that consumers are legally protected from becoming liable for fraud committed with their credit cards reduces the associated dangers significantly.