Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency, collects and aggregates information on over 800 million individual consumers. Let that sink in a moment – 800 million consumers with their personally identifiable information in Equifax’s databanks. And someone made off with a sizable withdrawal of that information.
hackers stole names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and driver’s license numbers, as well as credit card numbers and other identifying information
From mid-May through July 2017, hackers stole names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and driver’s license numbers, as well as credit card numbers and other identifying information from up to 145.5 million American records, revised upward from the 143 million originally estimated.
As a credit-monitoring company, one might expect Equifax to be extremely sensitive to the importance of safeguarding personal information from hackers. Although all the technical details are not known, initial reports indicated Equifax’s vulnerability was exploited due to an unpatched version of open-source web application software. Think you’re not exposed because you’re careful to stay off web sites? You don’t buy online products? You don’t put your information out there on the web? Think again. Much of Equifax’s consumer data doesn’t even come from customers who directly choose to do business with the firm, but are from credit check requests for anyone living and working in the U.S.
The fallout from the Equifax breach has not ceased. The ripple effect will be prolonged: years, perhaps, or even decades into the future. The possible impact to our connected, consumer-based society is stunning.
And that’s one breach for one financial institution. For a moment, just one moment, let’s extrapolate this privacy breach to a different type of cybercrime, such as a hack on the nation’s infrastructure: electric grids, dams, mass transit, air traffic control. Or the up-and-coming self-driving automobiles, for that matter. How do we protect against an assault on a way of life so intertwined with technology? How do we balance our desire for progress and the amazing technological advances against the need to protect its vulnerabilities from those who seek to profit from destruction?
There have always been a small percentage of people willing to commit horrendous acts against others. What has changed is their ability to escalate those acts using the very technology we depend on and use every day.
Cybersecurity solutions allow for identification of weak points, testing vulnerabilities which can then be remedied before the unthinkable happens. We need to evolve, be forward-thinking and unfailing in our pursuit of computer network, programs and data integrity.
Hunt for threats. Stop them quickly. Before the breach.