Equifax hackers reportedly accessed more personal information than previously disclosed, but the additional breach may not have put consumers at more risk than they already are, a cyber-security expert said.
The credit rating agency, which disclosed the massive hack in September, reported the additional breaches in documents submitted to the Senate Banking Committee, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
In addition to the data that had previously been disclosed, hackers were able to access “tax identification numbers, email addresses and drivers’ license information beyond the license numbers,” the Journal said.
More than 145 million Americans were affected by the Equifax hack last summer. The personal information accessed–which included Social Security numbers, driver’s licence numbers, and credit card numbers–would allow criminals to steal a consumer’s identity and open fraudulent accounts.
While alarming, the disclosure that additional personal information was accessed doesn’t necessarily put consumers at more risk than before.
“This is negative news and it doesn’t look good for Equifax,”
said Al Pascual, senior vice president and research director at Javelin Strategy & Research. “But considering the scale of the breach, this additional information doesn’t move the needle. If the additional data is encompassed within the 145 million people originally impacted, then it’s not something to be concerned about.”
An Equifax spokeswoman, Meredith Griffanti, told Consumer Reports that the Journal headline on the article–“Equifax Hack Might Be Worse Than You Think”–was “extremely misleading.”
She added that the “approximately 145.5 million consumers (affected by the data breach) has not changed.”
Consumer advocates, however, said this latest disclosure showed just how much personal information is collected by Equifax and other credit rating agencies, making all consumers vulnerable to identity theft.
“This is a demonstration of the broad array of personal information that Equifax holds about nearly every American, and a reminder of the need for individuals to protect themselves following the breach,” said Anna Laitin, Director of Financial Policy at Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports. “If consumers haven’t yet put a freeze on their credit report, now is as good a time as any to do so.”