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09/11/2017

Equifax Data Breach

What You Need to Know

A huge security breach at credit reporting company Equifax has exposed sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers and addresses, of up to 143 million Americans.

Unlike other data breaches, those affected by the breach may not even know they're customers of the company.

Equifax (EFX) is one of three nationwide credit-reporting agencies that track and rate the financial history of consumers. The company gets its data from credit card companies, banks, retailers and lenders -- sometimes without you knowing.

The data breach is among the worst ever because of the amount of people affected and the sensitive type of information exposed.

How many people were affected? The company says as many as 143 million people in the United States were hit. Others in the U.K. and Canada were also impacted, but Equifax hasn't said how many. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 U.S. customers were compromised, in addition to "personal identifying information" on about 182,000 U.S. customers.

Who was impacted? Equifax said it will send notices in the mail to people whose credit card numbers or dispute records were breached. The company said it found no evidence that consumers in other countries were affected beyond the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

What information was accessed? The hackers accessed personal information such as names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, credit card numbers and the numbers of some driver's licenses.

When did this happen? Equifax said the breach happened between mid-May and July. It discovered the hack on July 29. It informed the public on September 7.

How did this happen? Equifax said criminals "exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files." A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

Who was behind the breach? The company hasn't clarified but noted an investigation is ongoing.

It seems like cybersecurity hacks are happening a lot. Is this the biggest ever?  The Equifax breach is one of the largest breaches ever. Some other high-profile examples include two breaches at Yahoo -- the bigger one involved 1 billion accounts, the lesser impacted 500 million -- and a hack at Myspace that involved 360 million accounts.


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