Recently, Credit reporting company Equifax has revealed that its databases were hacked in a large-scale breach affecting millions of customers across the US, UK & Canada and personal information was leaked. While no hacking event is ever good news, some are easier to ignore than others – but unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. Major UK companies such as BT and British Gas use Equifax services as well, so there may be UK customers affected too.
Equifax is one of the three main organizations in the US that manages & calculates credit scores. To do that effectively, they have access to almost every piece of financial data for adults – social security, tax file numbers, drivers’ licence, credit card numbers…the big stuff. On July 29, Equifax disclosed the breach, stating that hackers had repeatedly gotten in through a vulnerability in their systems from mid-May to July of this year.
Equifax, cyber-security experts & law enforcement officials are on the case, working to minimize the long-term damage and it may be that the number of customers actually affected in the end may well be small. Also, the UK Regulator – the Information Commissioner – has asked Equifax to inform all UK customers that may be affected.
Whilst you do not need to panic, there is a risk of personal information being in the wrong hands. You should consider that risk, particularly as this type of personal information can circulate for a long time due to the fact that these hackers also sell the information on to others.
Here are a few ideas to protect yourself against possible future compromise: –
Keep a close eye on your finances and accounts.
Check for notifications of new credit applications, monitor your statements and bills, and immediately report any suspicious activity or sudden change in billing.
Change all your passwords to be strong, unique and long.
The stolen data may give hackers a free pass into bank accounts, email and personal information. Add two-factor authentication where possible – this is when an account demands a second layer of authentication before allowing access or changes – so just getting the password correct isn’t enough, the hacker would also need to get the special code sent by SMS text.
If you believe that you have been compromised, consider freezing your credit report.
This makes it harder for identity thieves to open accounts under your name, as access is completely restricted until you choose to un-freeze.
BT have provided the Equifax UK telephone number 0800 014 2955 for customers that have a query over their credit file and they can also be contacted via their website www.equifax.co.uk.
If you need help with your passwords, give us a call on 01455 209505.