As the number of complaints continue to rise following credit reporting agency Equifax’s massive hack last week, the scale and scope of the breach is troubling cybersecurity experts who warn nearly every adult in the United States could have been affected.
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“You’re talking about a good portion of U.S. adults,” Hiep Dang, director of Product Management at Cylance and former leader of McAfee’s threat team, told FOX Business. “Conservatively, maybe 75% [of us were affected], aggressively, probably all of us.”
What makes this hack particularly damaging is that thieves don’t just have one isolated piece of an individual’s personal information, they have an entire set of data points correlated to the individual, Dang pointed out.
Unfortunately, that means victims are at risk of a lot of criminal activity.
From getting a loan, to opening a bank account, “[the hackers] could potentially do anything with this information,” Dang said.
Why freezing your credit is not enough
The first step all experts, including Dang, recommend is freezing your credit. However, if hackers have all of an individual’s personal information, they also have all the information needed to unfreeze an account.
Dang is recommending that individuals be more diligent than ever when it comes to personal accounts. He said people should consistently monitor bank accounts and credit activity for anything suspicious. He also warns people to be wary of clicking links via email or social media claiming to originate from Equifax, as thieves are likely try to further capitalize on the event through malware. Dang said everyone should have anti-virus and anti-malware protection.
“It’s a Pandora’s box … Now that our data is out there … you can’t put that information back into its sealed container,” Dang warned.
More than 143 million people were affected by the breach, which was announced by the credit reporting firm on Thursday. The breach occurred between May and July, and hackers potentially accessed information including Social Security and driver’s license numbers. The company said it knew about the breach on July 29.
This breach of customer trust will be difficult for Equifax to recover from, Dang said, but he hopes it can be used as a learning experience for other credit agencies moving forward.