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US credit info provider leaks 143m user details Featured

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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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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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