SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

After Equifax breach, how worried should you be about your personal information?

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Linden resident Daniel Anthony says he believes his personal information is among the 143 million accounts breached at the credit bureau Equifax. Why?

“Credit card companies, a month ahead, issued me new credit cards basically stating that my information may have been jeopardized but they sent out replacement cards. At the time I didn’t know what it meant, but I guess not I understand it,” according to Anthony. “To have this kind of breach of confidentiality is very disheartening.”

Last Thursday, Equifax revealed it had discovered the mid-May to end-of-July cyber attack in late July and reported it to law enforcement. It was an attack where thieves stole social security numbers, drivers’ license numbers, birth dates and more than they could use to access your bank accounts and medical records.

“This is clearly a disappointing event, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I deeply regret this incident, and I apologize to every effected consumer and all of our partners,” said Equifax CEO Rick Smith said in a recorded statement.

The company said it was offering unprecedented identity theft protection and credit monitoring and encouraged consumers to check a link it provided to see if they were affected. NJTV News checked the link, entering both bogus and real information, getting the same results each time.

Consumers have been advised to watch their accounts. If they find something suspicious, freeze the accounts and do a thaw if applying for credit.

Computer Science Professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology Kurt Rohloff said it’s more than just a small inconvenience.

“I would say it definitely pays off in the long run. It’s definitely what I’d be doing if I were in that situation,” he said.

Rohloff is also the co-founder and director of NJIT’s Cybersecurity Research Center. When asked if breaches are taking place more often or is it more often that we’re hearing about them, he replied, “Probably both.”

Rohloff says while it’s always a challenge, the technology is improving for companies to do a better job of securing information.

“There are starting to be new technologies such as homomorphic encryption where one could actually encrypt data and process data while it’s encrypted therefore limiting the exposure to attacks, like insider attacks, if there have been any, or outsider attacks,” he said.

“It’s inevitable, unfortunately, that somewhere down the road all of us, one way or the other, will have our personal information compromised,” said McCarter & English Attorney Scott Christie.

But, Christie, who advises clients on cybersecurity, says Equifax should have done a better job of protecting data.

“Unlike other companies, like Target, they are not beholden to the consumers, to the victims. We don’t have a choice to deal with Equifax. They get our data, they store it, they make use of it and we can’t decide not to do business with them,” says Christie.

Lawyers say the breach has exposed Equifax to multi-billion dollar losses, and the lawsuit are piling up. Equifax has backed away from saying consumers who opted for ID protection cannot sue as well.

Will the public ever find out who breached Equifax and how? Those are questions that could be answered in the class action lawsuits that have been filed. But, Christie says if Equifax is smart, it will settle these lawsuits long before it’s required to answer those kinds of questions in discovery.