This past Thursday, news came out from credit reporting company Equifax, that from mid-May until the end of July 2017, 143 million American’s social security numbers, driver’s license, and a host of other personal identifiable information was compromised by hackers. The company did not know about the hack they announced until July 29. Therefore, from mid-May until the end of July, hackers had free reign of information that can be used most assuredly for identity theft.
To be clear, this article is not going to go into a diatribe about all the various allegations regarding insider trading, giving up the right to class action participation. If you want to know the official company stance on this incident, please visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ and read for yourself and draw your own conclusions. What this article is about is what you can, and frankly, should be doing, in the wake of this incident to protect yourself online.
Secure Online Accounts
This hack is particularly troubling, because as has been reported, this was not just an email and password hack. These crooks have personal identifiable information on millions of Americans. It can be used to access bank accounts, open home loans, and the list goes on. Therefore, the first thing I highly recommend is that you go to every single site you do financial transactions with and change your password. This is a pain I know, because when we change our passwords, we sometimes forget them. However, which would you rather do; change your password, or have your bank account cleaned out?
As I have stated in a previous article , I highly recommend setting up two-factor authentication (2FA) on all your accounts where offered. https://www.marshallnewsmessenger.com/blogs/reader/entries/2017/may/14/two-factor-authentication-its-no-longer-optional/ By setting up 2FA, you are putting one more roadblock up for hackers to get to your information. As I stated in that article, I personally and professionally believe that 2FA is no longer optional. If a particular website does not offer that, use their “contact us” section to send an email and let them know you really would like this feature added.
Freezing Credit File
In times like this, it is highly recommended that you put a freeze on your credit file. What this entails is letting the credit reporting agencies, which are Experian, Trans Union, and of course, hacked Equifax, that you do not want your information regarding your credit file released to anyone without your authorization. While this is something you are considering doing in the wake of this incident, you may want to consider making it a permanent thing in order to protect you in the future from things like this. More information on how to do this is provided at the following site. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs
Most certainly after a major hack of this magnitude, hackers are going to setup fake websites to lure people that were hacked into revealing more information about themselves. Therefore, be especially vigilant when reading emails. If you get an email from someone or some company that you do not recognize, it is nothing short of guaranteed that it’s a scam. These types of scams will have links in them for you to “verify” information for your “security.” Also, some may use fear of this hack to start phishing phone calls, and may pose as people from Equifax, or the federal government. Rest assured, no one from the government is going to call you, and for sure Equifax will not be contacting you. They are too busy handling the flood of calls coming into their call centers. As of this article, they have had to hire 2,000 additional workers to handle the call load.
Do Not Delay
I know that we read the news about hackers doing this and that, and we do not think them all that serious. However, this is by far, the worst hack in this nation’s history, because this much personal identifiable information has never been stolen before. Please understand, hackers have likely had your information for a solid three months. That is more than enough time to make the next few years of your life a living hell from a credit seeking point of view. Speaking from experience of having a family member’s identity stolen, I can assure you the frustration of changing passwords now, and setting up 2FA is far less frustrating than spending the next several years dealing with identity theft nightmares.
Hunter Bonner is a System Administrator. He can be reached via his blog www.techedgeblog.wordpress.com and on Twitter @TechEdgeBlog