Was your personal information accessed in the Equifax data breach? Given that 143 million Americans — nearly two-thirds of the country's adult population — it probably was.
According to Equifax, the breach occurred in May and wasn't detected until July 29. That explains how the breach became so massive. Making matters worse, the unexplained delay in revealing the breach until Thursday, Sept. 7, also means the hackers had plenty of time to make use of the data they stole.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Equifax said: "The information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed."
The theft of Social Security numbers is especially frightening, as the Washington Post reports, making the need for damage control especially urgent.
As outlined by the business and financial news organization Market Watch, here are three steps you need to take as soon as possible:
- Check if your data was breached.
- Freeze your credit reports.
- Sign up for additional fraud protection.
Market Watch provides additional details here.
In addition to those steps, The Street suggests changing all passwords and using a personal password vault.
The Federal Trade Commission also offers useful recommendations and resources for identity-theft prevention and recovery.
Once you've done all you can to prevent a breach, continue to closely monitor your financial statements and report any suspicious activity to your credit-card company and bank.
What Equifax is doing
In response to the breach, Equifax is offering free credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and internet scanning for Social Security numbers, but there's a delay in service.
- Preliminary enrollment using the last six digits of one Social Security number we tried this morning indicated the number's owner probably had been victimized in the breach. That number's owner was given a TrustedID Premier enrollment date of Sept. 12.
- Preliminary enrollment for the last six digits of a second Social Security number did not produce notification of a likely breach. The owner of that number was given a TrustedID Premier enrollment date of Sept. 15.
Enrolling in TrustedID may be worthwhile, but with enrollment delayed by up to a week or more, it's best to do what you can in the meantime.
What if a breach occurs anyway?
While the risk management steps outlined above can help prevent cyber breaches, no cyber security system is invulnerable, as the Equifax breach proves yet again. That's why cyber security insurance and cyber liability insurance are such important protections.
If a business as large and security-conscious as Equifax can be hacked, your business and personal information can be breached as well. In fact, Equifax reported no evidence of unauthorized activity on its own core consumer or commercial credit-reporting databases, indicating that the Equifax breach was merely a preliminary step to making victims of people like you and me.
Cyber security insurance and cyber liability insurance protect you in the event a breach does occur. For businesses in particular, cyber insurance offers third-party coverages — for risks such as data breach, privacy liability and electronic media liability — as well as first-party coverages for events including loss of digital assets, business interruption, cyber extortion and various forms of fraud,
If you have any questions about cyber insurance, I'd be more than happy to speak with you. Cyber crime is a problem that isn't going away. Let's work together to protect you, your business and your customers.
About Jill White and Sylvia Group
Licensed as a Massachusetts Producer for property and casualty, life, and accident and health insurance, and certified as a Construction Risk Insurance Specialist (CRIS) and Workers Compensation Advisor (CWCA), Jill White combines insurance training with knowledge gained from 15 years in the financial services industry to develop a thorough understanding of each client’s unique business needs and challenges. Devoted to protecting her clients, their businesses and everything they’ve worked hard to achieve, Jill conducts a full and thorough review of each business to ensure clients understand exactly what they’re paying for: which risks and exposures are covered, which aren’t and what gaps may exist. She then explores all available options and works with the client to design the insurance program that best fits the business’ strategic plans and goals.
Sylvia Group helps businesses and individuals protect their future by designing insurance, benefits and financial planning programs. We’re a locally owned agency known for our commitment to our clients and our community, as well for our industry expertise. Founded in New Bedford, MA, in 1950, headquartered in neighboring Dartmouth, and serving businesses and individuals throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and beyond, Sylvia Group is certified as a Woman Owned Business Enterprise with the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office and has the distinction of being the first six-time recipient of the Five Star designation awarded by the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) for all-around agency excellence.