By James Azar
As the news of the Equifax hack exploded and Equifax attempts to clear up the spill, the experts are slowly starting to gather emerging data of the damage and real-time consequences. Unfortunately, as we begin to push aside a lot of media hype and name-calling, we aren’t that much closer in understanding the significance of what happened.
Simply put, no one seems to be able to do the math, maybe because the numbers were so high (the massive data breach affected approximately 143 million consumers in the USA). Compare that to the total population in 2017 and you get 44%! That’s a cringe-worthy 'almost' half of the entire population having their personal data breached!
The breach was indeed massive. Social security numbers were stolen, along with addresses, driver's license numbers, names, birth dates, as well as credit card numbers. Then there was the mass-sale of the shares by top execs in the company who sold nearly $2 million in shares, which perpetuated the Media scandal suggesting potential insider knowledge on the breach.
Not an easy situation for Equifax, or for anyone else for that matter.
How can consumers act?
The only thing that citizens can do immediately, isn't very practical or in the long term, particularly effective, but the option is there.
They can freeze their personal credit. In some states, it is free while in others it cost $21. Freezing your credit will automatically lock all your credit so that anyone trying to buy something using your stolen social security number will be blocked.
The problem is that when you next make a large purchase that will require your credit, you will need to temporarily unlock your accounts. Unlocking your credit sometimes takes a few days, and then you have to make the transaction, and re-lock. Hackers potentially have many hours to steal all your money, if they keep your information somewhere. With so many millions of victims and their private info, they will be extricating info from the stolen data to determine who to hit and to determine the exact moment to strike.
So far, not so great, we are still in a massive predicament. Hopefully we will be able to put the best minds together and start to come up with pragmatic and potentially tech driven solutions.
What will happen to Equifax?
Currently there are hundreds of pending law suits against Equifax nationwide, in general alleging the company “acted willfully or recklessly in their failure to safeguard personal information”
Their popularity and stock prices slumped, their investors are angry, but can they recover?
Turns out, there is one brave and rather angry man who is making it his mission to bankrupt Equifax.
Joshua Browder created a chatbot called the DoNotPay bot back in July to help people with parking tickets. The bot was created to eliminate lawyers and allow citizens to file claims quickly and effectively.
Now you can use this same bot to sue Equifax in small claims court for negligence and get anywhere between $2,500 and $25,000 depending on which State you live in. What the bot does is simply takes the guesswork out of filing the paperwork. Obviously, it can't show up in court and argue for you but it's got claimants one step further.
Statistically speaking, the bureaucratic mountain that a lot of victims of this hack will have to climb will make the claims almost impossible for many people. So, the chatbot really going to assist people in pushing their case up the judicial list helps those millions affected by the cyber-attack get some money back.
This is probably the worst cyber-attack in years, because of the security that Equifax should have had and didn’t and the far reaching and completely unknown potential damage. How these hackers plan to use the information, remains to be seen. Keep your eyes and ears open for updates