Equifax has admitted that UK consumers have been affected by a massive hack attack on its US systems, which has seen the personal details of nearly half the American population exposed.
The company has come under fire after conceding it discovered the hack on July 29, but waited until this week to warn customers.
It has also emerged that before notifying the public, three Equifax senior executives sold shares in the company worth almost $1.8m, although the company denies they had knowledge of the incident. Since the public announcement, the company’s share price has tumbled.
The hack obtained consumers’ names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers of 143 million Americans. The company said hackers had also accessed data from British and Canadian residents.
“On a scale of one to 10, this is a 10 in terms of potential identity theft,” said Gartner security analyst Avivah Litan. “Credit bureaux keep so much data about us that affects almost everything we do.”
Litan claimed the breach could also undermine the integrity of the information held by Experian and TransUnion, since they hold virtually all the data that Equifax does.
Equifax CEO Richard Smith said in a statement: “This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologise to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes.”
The Atlanta-based company has set up a special website, where people can check to see if their personal information may have been stolen. However, it insists that no commercial or marketing data has been affected.
In October 2015, Experian revealed a data breach that exposed sensitive personal data of some 15 million people who applied for service with T-Mobile US.
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