Were you one of the millions affected by the Equifax hack? If not, you may now be; CEO testifies that the number affected is now over 145M

Credit report company Equifax announced last month that their systems had been exposed to a massive data breach from mid-May through July of this year, with millions of confidential information becoming vulnerable to theft. The agency confirmed that the number of impacted U.S. consumers had increased by 2.5 million, bringing the total to 145.5 million financial identities being potentially compromised.

Equifax is one of the three major credit report companies (the other two being Experian and TransUnion) that store vast items of data relating to all of our credit balances, debts, and other financial commitments. When you apply for any type of loan, the lender requests credit information from companies like Equifax. Based on their credit report, the lender then decides whether to approve or reject your loan request. This means that not only does Equifax hold a lot of personal data such as names and addresses, they also have access to millions of people’s financial information.

The stolen data is said to include people’s names, email addresses, birth dates, certain passwords, Social Security numbers and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.

Former CEO Richard Smith apologized and said human error and technology failures allowed the data breach.

“To each and every person affected by this breach, I am deeply sorry that this occurred,” Smith said. “Whether your personal identifying information was compromised, or you have had to deal with the uncertainty of determining whether or not your personal data may have been compromised, I sincerely apologize. The company failed to prevent sensitive information from falling into the hands of wrongdoers.”

Mandiant, the cybersecurity firm hired by Equifax to investigate the incident, concluded their forensic analysis and assured a prompt release of the results.

“While the company’s investigation is substantially complete, it remains ongoing and is expected to be completed in the coming weeks,”a spokesperson from Mandiant advised.

How do I protect myself from hacking?

Equifax has established a website to help consumers determine if their information has been compromised. In addition, Equifax will notify potentially impacted clients through direct mail notices. In the wake of the latest breach, here are some ways to protect yourself from online fraud:

  1. Review your credit reports – Ask a representative from your credit agency about the status of your credit. There are free websites that you can also use such as Annual Credit Report.
  2. Regularly change your passwords – Having the same passwords for all your accounts makes things easier for you, but also for potential hackers. Create complicated passwords and authentication steps if possible.
  3. Know what you spend on – Monitor your bank account activities closely and watch out for transactions you don’t recognize.
  4. Keep your phone password-protected  Your smartphone contains all of your personal data, so creating a password will keep the information protected in case you lose it. (Related: Wireless home automation systems can reveal vast amounts of personal information to anyone with a computer.)
  5. Be wary of online scams  Always double-check with your family members before wiring money.

Equifax is now facing lawsuits from different states — at least one state, Massachusetts, and the cities of San Francisco and Chicago have sued Equifax.

“I’ve told our entire team that our goal can’t be simply to fix the problem and move on. Confronting cybersecurity risks is a daily fight. While we’ve made significant investments in data security, we recognize we must do more. And we will,” Smith said.

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