Your Social Security number is the most sensitive and important piece of personal data you have. This number is so crucial to your financial security that it’s hard to overstate. This small nine-digit number allows for you to purchase property and take out lines of credit. It also, in the wrong hands, allows for hackers and thieves to steal property and money from you, or others. And if your social security number is used by a thief to steal from other individuals, it’s you, not them, that the authorities will be searching for. Of course, often other forms of identification are needed for authentication when a person tries to take out a line of credit or make other major financial decisions. The data commonly used in conjunction with a Social Security number to verify a consumer’s identity includes their home address, drivers license number and date of birth.
Five weeks ago, Equifax lost all of that data for 143 million US consumers. They didn’t announce that their users’ most precious personal data had been compromised for weeks. In the meantime, Equifax’s top executives sold over a million dollars worth of Equifax stock.
They also set up a website to give people a one-year free trial of their identity theft product, Trusted ID. After that year, they expect consumers to pay. On top of that, Equifax initially structured the terms of service for the site to prevent users from suing Equifax over the breach. And, as I’ve written about previously, the site doesn’t even work properly. Sometimes, it seems that the site will try to sell you identity theft services by Equifax even if you weren’t hacked.
Some members of Congress are calling for criminal prosecution of Equifax. That should absolutely happen, but I don’t think it’s enough. We’re talking about a company that gravely undermined the financial viability of nearly half of the US consumers. This isn’t going to be fixed a year from now when Equifax starts charging those consumers for Trusted ID. It doesn’t end ten years from now when individuals, and I can almost guarantee this will happen, finally save up enough for a down payment on a house and are denied credit because someone has been using their Social Security number unbeknownst to them. In fact, due to the very nature of Social Security, this problem doesn’t really end until everyone affected is dead and gone.
You can close a credit card if it is compromised, but the problem is, you can’t close your SSN.
– Adam Dolby, vice president of business development at Oslo, Norway-based Encap Security (via tomsguide.com)
Helping the people who have been compromised by Equifax’s terrible data handling is going to require untold resources. Even if Equifax hadn’t made the problem many times worse by spending weeks hiding what might be the most significant hack of all time, we’d be looking at staggering costs and slow, costly government intervention.
Who’s going to pay for that? US tax payers? This is even worse than bailing out the big banks. This is like paying an arsonist in perpetuity for burning your house down.
I don’t think Equifax deserves the right to conduct its business anymore. It’s carelessness, scheming, and profiteering have endangered the stability of nearly half of all Americans. It needs to be completely shut down, and its assets need to be re-claimed and used for the benefit of the people they have so irreperably harmed.
They ruined us, so we should ruin them. Any less than that is not justice.