Equifax Reveals Extent of 2017 Data Breach, Details Number of Stolen Records

In an update from the Equifax data breach in 2017, the company reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that while no new breaches occurred and no new customers were affected, a total of 2.4 million personally identifiable information (PII) were collected from the 2017 attack. The image storage server where customers upload scans of documents for their online dispute portal was also hacked, which included passports and other government-issued IDs.

[Related: The Equifax Breach: What to do now and what to watch out for]

Equifax submitted the report at the request of the congressional committees investigating the cybersecurity incident to determine the depth and extent of the breach. The initial report in September 2017 estimated that the breach exposed records of 145.5 million US citizens and 15.2 million in the UK. After organizing and classifying their internal databases, analysis yielded that the PII collected by the hackers include dates of birth, social security numbers (SSN), addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, driver’s license numbers, tax identification numbers, and credit card data, among others. The report filed late last week yielded more specific details:

Data Element Stolen Approx. Number of Affected US Consumers
Name 146.6 million
Date of Birth 146.6 million
SSN 145.5 million
Address Information 99 million
Gender 27.3 million
Phone Number 20.3 million
Driver's License Number 17.6 million
Email (w/o credentials) 1.8 million
Payment Card No. and Expiration Date 209,000
Tax ID 97,500
Driver's License State 27,000

The report states that no additional breaches and no additional customers were affected since the September 2017 announcement. However, aside from the database information accessed by the cybercriminals, the online dispute portal was also breached, exposing images uploaded by approximately 182,000 US consumers. From the company review details the approximate number of government-issued IDs uploaded:

Government-Issued ID Approx. Number of Images Affected
Driver's Licese 38,000
SS or Tax ID Card 12,000
Passport or Passport Card 3,200
Others (Military IDs, Resident Alien Cards, Stte-Issued IDs) 3,000

While individual customers were initially notified after the public announcement late last year, Equifax wrote that the affected consumers will receive notifications by US Postal mail, identifying the PII included in the breach, except for those whose gender, phone numbers and email addresses were collected as US notification laws do not require it. The company also announced on their website that they will be offering identity theft protection and credit file monitoring to affected customers at no cost. Customers can also access the website for the “Am I Impacted” tool to find out if their information is among the list of affected records.

[Related: Lessons from the Equifax Breach]

The data breach was traced back to a security program vulnerability that Equifax failed to patch. It has  since become an example for businesses to improve their data handling, management, and protection policies. Here are some guidelines enterprises can follow to prevent a similar incident:

  • Regularly patch firmware updates to protect servers from vulnerabilities.
  • Organize and classify data, so that only the people trained and authorized to handle sensitive information have access to relevant details.
  • Have alternative systems of authentication inside the company and for customers. PII are often used by businesses to verify individuals’ identities, and SSNs have been especially abused over time. Other verification methods should be explored to create variation and make it systems more difficult to breach.

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