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Equifax should be wound down..Part 2

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Equifax has consistently failed in their duty to protect data. The company should be forced to offer a permanent lifetime credit freeze for FREE. Or absent of that, wind them them down. They are completely incompetent and should not be allowed to be in this business in my opinion.

The company’s first order of business ought to have been to create a simple way for people to figure out if their data was potentially compromised. On this count, Equifax failed at first.

On Thursday night, I entered my last name and the last six digits of my Social Security number on the appropriate Equifax web page. (They had the gall to ask for this? Really? But I digress.) I received no “message indicating whether your personal information may have been impacted by this incident,” as the site promised. Instead, I was bounced to an offer for free credit monitoring, without a “yes,” “no” or “maybe” on the central question at hand.

By Friday morning, this had changed, and I got a “your personal information may have been impacted by this incident” notification. Progress. Except as my friend Justin Soffer pointed out on Twitter, you can enter a random name and number into the site and it will tell you the same thing. Indeed, I typed “Trump” and arbitrary numbers and got the same message.

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Now, to the remedy. The company is offering one free year of credit monitoring to all Americans, not just the ones whose data was stolen. It includes the ability to turn your Equifax credit report on and off, to keep thieves from applying for credit in your name using information they stole from Equifax and to have access to your Equifax report to do so.

That’s all well and good, except that the thieves might use the stolen information to apply for credit with lenders that check the credit reports only at the other big agencies, Experian and TransUnion. So this protection is incomplete.

And why just a year? Who knows? Isn’t this an invitation to the thieves to sit on the data for a while and then use it when all of us have moved on?

Meanwhile, people can’t easily change their Social Security numbers to thwart the thieves. So if any bad actors have your personal data, those numbers will be useful for years, maybe decades, depending on how the credit system changes over time.

Equifax should have made the monitoring last forever. Since it didn’t, it will now be able to solicit everyone who signs up for its year of free service. And what do you want to bet that the company will offer an extension bright and early on day 366 for, say, $16.95 per month?

So, yes, your worst suspicions are now confirmed. Equifax may actually make money on this breach. We would expect nothing less from the credit reporting industry, with which few of us would choose to do business but nearly everyone has to sooner or later.

In the meantime, here’s hoping that this breach is the nudge you need to finally sign up for permanent freezes on your credit files. I’ve used them for years, and here’s how they work. You sign up (and pay some fees, because you knew it wasn’t going to be free to protect data that you didn’t ask these companies to store, right?) at Equifax’s, Experian’s and TransUnion’s websites. Christina Bater, managing director at Barrett Asset Management in New York, suggests freezing your file at the little-known company Innovis, too. Hey, why not?

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And then there’s this: A security freeze doesn’t protect you if the thieves break into the vault of the company that maintains the freeze. That’s what happened here, and we will now spend years seeing what happens next.

Equifax should be wound down..Part 1

There is simply no excuse for this bad actor. Terminate the company.

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Last year, identity thieves successfully made off with critical W-2 tax and salary data from an Equifax website. And earlier this year, thieves again stole W-2 tax data from an Equifax subsidiary, TALX, which provides online payroll, tax and human resources services to some of the nation’s largest corporations.

Cybersecurity professionals criticized Equifax on Thursday for not improving its security practices after those previous thefts, and they noted that thieves were able to get the company’s crown jewels through a simple website vulnerability.

“Equifax should have multiple layers of controls” so if hackers manage to break in, they can at least be stopped before they do too much damage, Ms. Litan said.

Potentially adding to criticism of the company, three senior executives, including the company’s chief financial officer, John Gamble, sold shares worth almost $1.8 million in the days after the breach was discovered. The shares were not part of a sale planned in advance, Bloomberg reported.

The company handles data on more than 820 million consumers and more than 91 million businesses worldwide and manages a database with employee information from more than 7,100 employers, according to its website.

Equifax has created a website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers determine whether their data was at risk.

People can go to the Equifax website to see if their information has been compromised. The site encourages customers to offer their last name and the last six digits of their Social Security number. When they do, however, they do not necessarily get confirmation about whether they were affected. Instead, the site provides an enrollment date for its protection service, and it may not start for several days.

Equifax’s credit protection service, which is free for one year for consumers who enroll by Nov. 21, is available to everyone and not just the victims of the breach.

Equifax is offering consumers the ability to freeze their Equifax credit reports, said John Ulzheimer, a consumer credit expert who often does expert witness work for banks and credit unions and worked at Equifax in the 1990s. Thieves could have information stolen from Equifax and used it to open accounts with creditors that use Experian or TransUnion.

“It’s like locking one of three doors in your house and leaving the other two unlocked,” Mr. Ulzheimer said. “You’re hoping the thief stumbles on the locked door.” He recommended that all those affected immediately place a fraud alert on all three of their credit files, which anyone can do for free.

Equifax’s offer of one year of free protection falls short of what consumers really need, because their information can be bought and sold by hackers for years to come, Mr. Ulzheimer added.

Beyond compromising the personal data of millions of consumers, the breach also poses a potential national security threat. In recent years, Chinese nation-state hackers have breached insurers like Anthem and federal agencies, siphoning detailed personal and medical information. These hackers go wide in their assaults in an effort to build databases of Americans’ personal information, which can be used for blackmail or future attacks.

Governments regularly buy stolen personal information on the so-called Dark Web, security experts say. The black market sites where this information is sold are far more exclusive than black markets where stolen credit card data is sold. Interested buyers are even asked to submit to background checks before they are admitted.

“Cyberwar is in large part conducted through data mining and cyberintelligence,” Ms. Litan said. “This is also a Homeland Security risk as enemy nation states build databases of Americans that they then use to get to their targets, for example a network operator at a power grid, or a defense contractor at a missile defense company.”

Sen. Mark R. Warner, a Virginia Democrat who co-founded the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, said he believed the severity of the Equifax breach raised serious questions about whether Congress needed to rethink data protection policies.

“It is no exaggeration to suggest that a breach such as this — exposing highly sensitive personal and financial information central for identity management and access to credit — represents a real threat to the economic security of Americans,” he said in a statement.

Bowl Tending: Chipotle

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Fast-food chain Chipotle says hackers infected its point of sale terminals to gain access to card data from stores in 47 states and Washington, DC.

The self-described “Mexican Grill” says that the malware was active earlier this year from March 24 to April 18, when it was detected, triggering the company to issue an alert.

“The malware searched for track data (which sometimes has cardholder name in addition to card number, expiration date, and internal verification code) read from the magnetic stripe of a payment card as it was being routed through the POS device,” Chipotle said in its latest summary of the incident.

“There is no indication that other customer information was affected.”

That last sentence is a bit puzzling, as a fraudster who has payment card numbers, dates, and security codes would have little need for any other info.

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Chipotle recommends that anyone who paid with a card at one of the compromised stores keep a close eye on bank statements and consider having an alert placed to their credit file to catch possible fraud.

Yeah right, double speak “there is no indication that other customer information was affected.” Which means, no other customer information EXCEPT the information stolen in the hack! Excuse me while I barf.