Last week’s Equifax breach is still making news as more details about the massive cybersecurity incident come to light. While the breach is said to possibly affect 143 million U.S. consumers, that incredible number might not even be enough to fully illustrate just how widespread the effects of the breach will be.
Hiep Dang, director of Product Management at antivirus software company Cylance, told Fox Business the breach could potentially affect “all” U.S. adults. Dang said that 75 percent of American adults being affected was a conservative estimate.
Dang and others have referred to the incident as a Pandora’s Box situation, now that virtually all American adults have seen their names, social security numbers, addresses, and birth dates leaked in an event of this magnitude.
Equifax’s initial response was met with much criticism. Not only did the company only recently announce the breach despite discovering the incident in late July, but its special website equipped to deal with the response — equifaxsecurity2017.com — drew a number of complaints, as well.
Initial language seen on the site appeared to be an attempt to get people to forfeit their rights to legal action against the company if signing up for Equifax’s free credit monitoring offer. Equifax immediately saw public pressure as a result, in addition to pressure from N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who deemed the language “unenforceable.” The language in question was corrected.
— NY AG Underwood (@NewYorkStateAG) September 8, 2017
Furthermore, Equifax’s tool that enables you to look up whether or not your data may have been compromised was outed as unreliable, at best — many people have shown they were typing in random names and number strings, and getting a note back that said their information had indeed been compromised.
Equifax has reacted with a recent “progress update,” which claims the company is offering random PINs for credit freezes, increasing call center support, and clarifying credit monitoring language, among other steps.
However, a new report from ZDNet claims that Equifax’s credit monitoring site is also vulnerable to hackers. So stay tuned.
Staying Safe Now
So with all these widespread issues and no catch-all solution available, what can consumers do? The first step is to check your accounts to make sure you’re not seeing any inexplicable actions or charges. Some consumers are also choosing to freeze their credit — that may or may not be an option for you depending on your current situation. Credit freezes may come with a fee, but Equifax is currently offering free credit freezes for 30 days — again, after public pressure.
In response to consumer feedback, Equifax will waive all Security Freeze fees for the next 30 days. -Tim
— Equifax Inc. (@Equifax) September 11, 2017
You may not want to go that route. After all, we don’t blame anyone for not wanting to deal with Equifax on any level right now. We’d also advise consumers to be wary of strange emails relating to your credit — especially those that appear to be from Equifax, as these emails could be phishing attempts.
Other than doing your own checking and monitoring of your accounts, there’s also the option to sign up for a credit monitoring service — and you don’t need to use Equifax, as there are other options. Unfortunately, these services carry a fee. Consumers are also entitled to one free credit report every 12 months. For that, check out the federally authorized annualcreditreport.com.
Check out our Five Simple Ways To Improve Your Cybersecurity article for more quick general tips on how to stay safe online.