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What You Need to Know About the Equifax Hack

Release date: 9/19/2017

Equifax data breach may have affected as many as 143 million U.S. consumers

Earlier this month Equifax, one of the nation’s three credit reporting agencies, announced a major data breach affecting almost 143 million Americans’ personal information.  The hackers may have accessed drivers’ license numbers, social security number, birth dates, credit card numbers, addresses and other sensitive data.   The breach lasted from May through July.  If you have a credit report, your sensitive data may have been accessed.

“Major breaches like this one remind us that it is critical for internet users to remain continually diligent about practicing good cybersecurity habits,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). “As our connected world grows and vast amounts of information is collected and stored, the scale of data breaches is likely to grow. Businesses and organizations that accumulate data must operate with a deep understanding of the value of that data to cybercriminals and the other risks to their customers, employees and networks. It is essential they employ a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity and be prepared to respond if a breach occurs.”[1]

Equifax works behind the scenes collecting data from your credit card company, your bank, the retailers you visit and other lenders, so you may not even know for certain if you are in their database and need to be concerned.  In past data breaches, you knew that you were a customer of the breached retailer and that you needed to act. 

Immediate Recommended Steps

  1. Set up credit monitoring and identity theft protection. 
  2. Put a free fraud alert or a security freeze on your credit report. 
  3. Check and monitor your credit card and bank statement religiously. 
  4. Check your credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies, available for free at annualcreditreport.com
  5. Social networks are another source of your personal data.  Don’t overshare.
  6. Use strong and unique passwords

Implement Strong Cyber Security Practices

Take the following actions recommended by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

  1. Users need to act now to lock down their data.  Lock down your accounts by using strong authentication. 
  2. Keep your computers clean from infections by performing critical updates as recommended.  This includes all mobile devices.
  3. Keep a close eye on your financial and credit card accounts. 
  4. Don’t answer emails or posts from suspicious sources.  Be alert for post-breach phishing attempts that try to trick you into giving up the missing pieces of your personal information. 

Recommended Resources for additional information

More information on how to protect yourself following the security breach.

Conclusion

The upshot of this is that you need to be vigilant and proactive about your accounts, your internet practices (especially on social media), and anything that might affect access to your personal information.  Consider enrolling in an identity theft product, which places another layer of protection between you and potential fraudulent use of your accounts. 

Don’t become complacent because of the consistency of reported data hacks.  Demand better security protections in place, both for high-tech and low-tech leaks from the companies that you do business with, e.g. your health care provider or medical institution.  Question it if a company asks for information that you feel is overly intrusive.  Put pressure on your elected representatives to take the issue of cyber security seriously by pushing for cybersecurity-focused legislation, regulations and other rules so that the U.S. is better prepared in cyberspace.[2]

Look for additional information about protecting yourself online through strong cyber security practices in October during National Cyber Security Awareness Month

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