Equifax, one of three major consumer credit reporting agencies, announced Thursday that cyber hackers gained access to data of the company that potentially compromised personal data for more than 143 million consumers in the U.S., including their social security numbers, driver’s licenses and more.
The breach of security on Equifax represents one of the biggest risks in recent years to personal data, and is the third time in the past two years a major cybersecurity breach hit the company.
Based in Atlanta, Equifax is a tempting target to hackers. If the cyber attackers wanted just one place to find all the data necessary that would cause the most damage, it would be hitting one of the three largest credit reporting companies.
One research group director said this data breach was as bad as there is. If you have a past or current credit report, the chances are good you might be part of the breach, she added.
Access was made by criminals to certain files within the company’s online system between the middle of May and the end of June, through exploiting a website software weak point, said officials from Equifax and security consultants who carried out an investigation.
Equifax said the data breach was discovered July 29 and since has not found any evidence of other unauthorized activity on its commercial reporting or main consumer databases.
Along with the other data, hackers took names, dates of birth and addresses. Credit cards numbers of 209,000 consumers were taken as well, and documents containing personal information for disputes were taken for over 182,000 people.
Other data breaches such as the pair that were announced by Yahoo in 2016 eclipse the size of that of Equifax but the attack on the consumer credit reporting agency is worse when it relates to severity.
Thieves siphoned much more personal data, which are the keys to unlocking the medical histories, employee accounts and bank accounts of consumers.
One fraud analyst in New York said that when putting this attack on a scale from 1 to 10 as far as risk to the consumer, it is definitely a 10.
A spokesperson for the FBI said the federal agency was advised of the breach and is currently tracking the overall situation.
In 2016, identity thieves stole critical W-2 salary and tax data from Equifax and in early 2017 stole W-2 data from one of its subsidiaries.