Documents provided recently by Equifax to senators revealed that the breach suffered by the company last year may have involved types of data not mentioned in the initial disclosure of the incident.
In mid-May 2017, malicious actors exploited a known vulnerability in the Apache Struts development framework to gain unauthorized access to Equifax systems. The company said the breach affected roughly 145 million customers – mostly in the U.S., but also in Canada and the United Kingdom – including their social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and in some cases driver’s license numbers, payment cards, and dispute documents.
Confidential documents sent by Equifax to the Senate Banking Committee, copies of which were seen by CNN and The Wall Street Journal, show that hackers may have also stolen tax identification numbers, email addresses, and driver’s license information other than just license numbers.
In response to news reports, Equifax said its initial disclosure was never intended to include all the types of information that may have been compromised.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has called on Equifax to provide clarifications on what she has described as “conflicting, confusing and incomplete information” provided by the company to the public and Congress.
According to Sen. Warren, Equifax told the Banking Committee in early October that passport numbers had also been included in the database tables possibly accessed by the attackers, but now the credit reporting agency claims passports were not compromised.
“As your company continues to issue incomplete, confusing and contradictory statements and hide information from Congress and the public, it is clear that five months after the breach was publicly announced, Equifax has yet to answer this simple question in full: what was the precise extent of the breach?” Sen. Warren wroten in a letter to Equifax.
The senator has given Equifax one week to provide a full and complete list of data elements confirmed or believed to have been compromised in the breach, along with a timeline of its efforts to determine the full extent of the intrusion.
Sen. Warren last week published a 15-page report containing the findings of her own four-month investigation into Equifax’s failures. The lawmaker’s investigation found that the company had set up a flawed system to prevent data security incidents, it ignored numerous warning of risks to customer data, it failed to disclose the breach to stakeholders in a timely manner, and provided inadequate assistance and information to consumers. The report also said Equifax had taken advantage of federal contracting loopholes to force the IRS into signing a contract.
Earlier this year, senators Warren and Mark Warner introduced a bill that would provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with punitive powers over the credit reporting industry for poor cybersecurity practices. The bill came in response to the Equifax breach.
Reuters reported earlier this month that Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), had halted the probe into the Equifax breach. Following the news, 32 senators sent a letter CFPB asking for additional information on its investigation.
By Eduard Kovacs