Home Security US credit info provider leaks 143m user details

US credit info provider leaks 143m user details

American credit information provider Equifax has disclosed that it learned on 29 July of a leak that involved the details of 143 million consumers.

Bloomberg reported that three senior company executives sold shares worth about US$1.8 million in the days after the breach was discovered.

Following disclosure of the breach, Equifax shares fell 6.2% by 5.50pm in New York on Thursday (7.50am AEST on Friday), Bloomberg reported.

To put the leak in perspective, the population of the US was about 324 million at the beginning of this year, according to figures available from the US Census Bureau.  

The company said in a statement on Thursday that the breach involved the use of a website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files and that the leak took place from mid-May through July.

It did not say why it had taken so long to disclose the breach.

"The information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver's licence numbers," the statement said.

"In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 US consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 US consumers, were accessed."

Also leaked was "limited personal information" for some UK and Canadian residents.

"Equifax will send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents with personal identifying information were impacted" the statement added.

Commenting on the incident, Dr Richard Ford, chief scientist of Forcepoint, told iTWire: “The unfortunate Equifax breach is just another embodiment of the threat environment that organisations face every day – this is the new normal.

"The rise of large-scale data collection and aggregation has placed considerable pressure on organisations to preserve privacy while leveraging data for legitimate business purposes. The more sensitive the data the greater the liabilities caused by a breach.

"The threats to this data are diverse, ranging from the apparent hack disclosed here to accidental loss by authorised users. Focusing too narrowly on a single scenario can prevent companies from seeing the full spectrum of risk they face, with dire consequences.

"Companies need to augment legacy defences with modern, human-centric approaches that look at how and why data is accessed and by whom; this intersection of people, data and systems can become the critical point for effective security and compliance.”

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.