Understanding the Equifax Security Breach

Equifax's Security Breach Should Be of Concern To Everyone (Including You)

Equifax announced yesterday (September 7, 2017) what can only be described as a massive breach of their cybersecurity. The data breach places the majority of American's at risk for a wide range of identity crimes. This is the first in a series of short, focused, articles about the Equifax breach, designed to help readers understand what happened and what it means to you.

Who Was Impacted

The breach is likely the largest cybersecurity breach in history, potentially impacting 143 million Americans as well as an unknown number of residents of the United Kingdom and Canada. That number represents nearly three quarters of adults age 18-64 and over 60% of the approximately 225 million adults in the U.S.

Assume You Are a Victim

The estimated U.S. adult population includes the homeless population, undocumented immigrants, and other individuals who likely don’t have a credit history. As a result, the 143 million people affected likely includes the vast majority, if not all, of the people in Equifax’s database.

As a result, if you have or have had a loan, it is safe to assume your information was included in the Equifax Security Breach. You may also be impacted if you have a cell phone, have simply applied for loans, or have done business with a company which reports payment histories to the Equifax credit bureau. 

What Was Stolen

Equifax stated there is (currently) “no evidence of unauthorized access to core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases.” Although it’s great the core system for Equifax was not breached, the information which was stolen includes pretty much everything an identify thief would need to become you.

That’s like your bank reassuring you by saying “The bank robbers did not break into our vault, all they stole was your money.

An Identity Thieve's Treasure Trove

According to an Equifax statement, the stolen information includes “names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and, in some instances, drivers licenses.” Effectively, the hackers were able to acquire everything they would need to apply for loans in your name, claim your tax refund

Even scarier, much of this information is what is used by financial institutions to identify you over the phone. Potentially giving hackers the ability to impersonate you to your bank or credit union.

One More Reason to Limit Social Media

A silver lining: since the core database wasn’t breached, it is unlikely hackers will know where you bank or have other accounts. Unless, of course, you have mentioned it in the past on social media posts or elsewhere. (Think about the time you were pissed at your bank and posted your frustration.)


Joshua Escalante Troesh is a tenured professor of Business at El Camino College and the founder of Purposeful Finance. His career, including as a former credit union Vice President of Marketing, offers insight into what the Equifax data breach means for consumers. He can be reached for comment at info@purposefulfinance.org.

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