A massive cyber security incident at Equifax — one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the United States — may have exposed private information belonging to 143 million people — nearly half of the U.S. population.
The breach, which was discovered July 29, includes sensitive information such as social security numbers, birthdays, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers. The agency said 209,000 credit card numbers were exposed in the breach, which includes customers in Canada and the United Kingdom.
Adding to the scandal, three of the company’s top executives sold Equifax shares just days after the breach was discovered. The breach was not publicly disclosed until Thursday, more than six weeks later.
John Gamble, chief financial officer; Joseph Loughran, president of U.S. information security; and Rodolfo Ploder, president of workforce solutions solutions, all sold shares days after the company was aware of the breach, according to SEC filings. Bloomberg, which first reported this, estimated the total value of shares sold to be $1.8 million.
An Equifax representative told NBC News the three executives sold a “small percentage” of their shares and “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time they sold their shares.”
The FBI is actively investigating the cyber incident and Equifax has been cooperating, law enforcement sources told NBC News.
The irony: Equifax is the agency many people use to guard against identity theft and one that businesses turn to when verifying a person is who they say they are. Now, with the private information in the hands of cyber thieves, customers are being placed in a difficult position.
“Equifax is tasked with actually protecting this information in the form of identity theft protection and here we are with almost half of the country’s population being affected,” Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, told NBC News.
Richard Smith, chairman and CEO of Equifax, apologized to “consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes.”
“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do,” said Smith.
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