Equifax Breach Affected Millions More than First Thought

Richard Smith testified to congress on Tuesday in the US

Richard Smith testified to congress on Tuesday in the US

The former head of Equifax Inc (EFX.N) apologized repeatedly on Tuesday at a congressional hearing for the theft of millions of people's personal data in a hacking breach, saying it took weeks for the credit bureau to understand the extent of the intrusion.

The former chief executive at Equifax tells lawmakers that the sale of company stock by senior executives in early August was unrelated to the data breach at the company.

Late on Monday, Equifax said an independent review had increased the estimate of potentially affected USA consumers by 2.5 million to 145.5 million. But Equifax is offering free credit-monitoring services for one year and will unveil a new service next year allowing consumers to freeze and unfreeze their credit information at no charge for life.

In March, the U.S. Homeland Security Department alerted Equifax to an online gap in security but the company did nothing, said Smith.

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Equifax keeps a trove of consumer data for banks and other creditors who want to know whether a customer is likely to default.

Smith said the employee responsible for communicating that vulnerable software needed to be patched didn't do so. But that may not be enough for lawmakers and consumer advocates who have asked the credit agency for more extensive remedies and protections.

Additionally, Equifax says that an investigation into how many United Kingdom consumers were affected by the breach is being analyzed in the United Kingdom.

That means that the Social Security numbers, names, addresses and other personal information of as many as 145.5 million people are at risk of being used by crooks. Security experts have said that the ripple effects will be felt for years to come and that the ultimate costs are hard to discern.

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The company released the new figure after cybersecurity firm Mandiant, which Equifax hired to investigate the breach it disclosed on September 7, finished the forensic portion of its probe.

A week later, the company's chief security officer and the chief information officer announced their sudden retirements.

- Separately, the administration of President Donald Trump is considering replacing the use of Social Security numbers as personal identifiers in the wake of the Equifax hack, White House cyber-security coordinator Rob Joyce said at a conference on October 3, Bloomberg reported.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, another panel that will question Smith, told The Washington Post in a statement that he hopes the hearing before his committee will offer insight into how data brokers can better protect sensitive information from large-scale breaches. Then Smith, the former chief executive, said that he, too, would step down.

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"This reemphasizes the need for data breach legislation, so there is a standard - so you don't have a company decide when they want to disclose when a breach has occurred", Warner said. He said he was alerted the following day, but was not aware of the scope of the stolen data.

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