Hackers have obtained names, social security numbers, birthdates, addresses and even some credit card numbers belonging to up to 143 million U.S. citizens and an undisclosed number of Canadians.
In a notice to consumers, Equifax shed some light on what has been described as the worst data breach of all time by some media. There have been bigger hacks in recent years: the Yahoo hacks in 2013 and 2014 exposed the data of 1.5 billion users, combined. There were 412 million affected when dating website AdultFriendFinder was hacked. What makes this stand out though isn’t the number of people affected, but the depth of information that has been compromised.
In this hack, however, information has come out that Equifax failed to reveal the breach to the public for more than a month. According to their own release, on July 29, 2017, Equifax discovered data had been accessed by an unauthorized party as early as May of this year. It’s unclear why it took so long for the information to be made public, but in between then and now, three of the company’s executives dumped $1.8 million of company shares before news of the incident was released. Equifax’s stock price has since fallen 14%.
U.S. customers who are concerned about whether their data has been compromised can allegedly get answers at this website set up by Equifax, although according to Android Authority, “initial reports suggest that [the answers given are] frustratingly unclear.”
For those in Canada that may have been affected, little information has been provided aside from the fact that the amount of personal information stolen was “limited”. At time of writing, Equifax Canada have yet to offer a statement regarding the breach, but the main company’s release promises that it is working with local regulators to “determine appropriate next steps. Aside from Canada, the U.K. is the only other country affected.
In the U.S. Equifax is offering one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance for all customers, but the burden falls mostly on your own shoulders to check your financial statements and other sensitive information closely. Flag any suspicious transactions, and read your credit report to make sure there haven’t been any applications or new credit products opened without your knowledge in the last several months.
Identity theft can leave you in financial ruin if you’re not vigilant, so be on the lookout and check with Equifax Canada customer service to make sure your credit is safe.