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The Big Storm: Equifax's Data Breach

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Friday, September 8, 2017

By this time Monday, we will have seen how the force and impact of Hurricane Irma will have struck the continental U.S. Current models show Miami to be the most at-risk, though Governor Rick Scott said all Floridians ought to evacuate, regardless which coast they may live on or near. We hope everyone remains safe and that the hurricane does not treat the Florida peninsula as a giant bull’s eye.

Crops such as oranges and commodities such as frozen orange juice (recall the sub-plot to the 1980s Eddie Murphy movie “Trading Places”) are predicted to rise in price in the near term, and may continue at higher price points for an extended period of time, depending on the storm’s damage. Currently, frozen orange juice futures are up 5% in this morning’s pre-market (discounting any bad information from Clarence Meeks). Also commodities like cotton and timber are produced in the state of Florida, and we may see spikes in prices here, as well.

But a far bigger concern for a far bigger portion of the American populace has struck the news feeds this morning: consumer credit reporting agency Equifax (EFX - Free Report) has announced it has suffered a major data breach, affecting as many as 143 million Americans. The compromised information includes such sensitive elements as birthdates, Social Security and driver’s license numbers.

According to professionals in the field, there is a very good chance your information is included in the breach; Equifax is one of three major credit report companies, so anyone with a credit report is at risk. By some measures, there may be more than a 50% chance this has happened. It is reported the breach took place between mid-May and July of this year; the breach was discovered in late July, with no reports of intrusion at the company since.

Also, more than 200K people have now had their credit card numbers stolen. In terms of how many people may have been affected, this breach pales in comparison to the hack we saw at Yahoo a few years ago, but the sensitivity of the information obtained by the hackers is much more potentially damaging to people’s wealth and credit access.

This is not the first time Equifax information has been compromised, and cybersecurity analysts had criticized the company for not doing more to protect its customers following those previous attacks. Even worse, part of Equifax’s business is to backstop information to protect against security breaches. Now that this itself has been breached, this effectively erases the backstop. Scary stuff.

For those who want to find out whether their information was included in the attack, Equifax has supplied a website: The company has expressed deep regret, and so have shareholders: EFX stock is currently down 13.5% in this morning’s pre-market.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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