Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies in the United States, has suffered a massive data breach that places 143 million Americans at risk.
While the incident does not involve as many victims as other major recent cyberattacks, what makes the Equifax data breach dangerous is the type of information that was stolen by hackers.
Equifax Data Breach: Here Are All The Details
In a press release, the credit reporting agency said that hackers exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to be able to gain access to Equifax files. According to investigations, the data breach happened from the middle of May through July 29, when the cyberattack was discovered.
The Equifax data breach affected about 143 million customers, which is less than the 700 million email accounts compromised by the recently discovered biggest spambot dump ever and the 1 billion victims of the Yahoo hack. However, the information that hackers may have acquired from Equifax are more sensitive, exposing the affected customers to a bigger risk of identity theft.
"This is about as bad as it gets," said World Privacy Forum executive director Pamela Dixon, adding that people who have a credit report are more than 50 percent likely to be a victim of the Equifax data breach.
The hackers were able to access the names of customers and their Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and for certain cases, also their driver's license numbers. In addition, the credit card numbers of about 209,000 customers and dispute documents containing more personal information of about 182,000 customers were also compromised.
Using all this information, hackers will be able to launch sophisticated attempts of identity theft, as they will also be able to unlock the medical history, employee accounts, and bank accounts of their victims.
How To Check If You Are Affected
Equifax has created a website for customers to learn more about the cybersecurity incident, including whether they are one of its victims.
The website will need the last name of customers and the last six digits of their social security number. Equifax will then inform the person if they are a victim of the data breach, and will offer free credit file monitoring and identity theft protections under a program named TrustedID Premier.
TrustedID Premier will allow customers to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports, offer identity theft insurance, and enable internet scanning for their social security numbers for free for one year. The program will be open for enrollments until Nov. 21
Needless to say, customers who are affected by the Equifax data breach should sign up for this program, and be more vigilant in spotting possible cases of identity theft.