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Editorial: Your new part-time job, watching your credit history

From The Charleston Gazette-Mail, Gazette page:

As if having a storm the size of France on its way wasn’t enough to be going on with, Americans learned late Thursday that Equifax lost to hackers valuable identity information on about half the adults in the country. Social Security numbers, drivers license numbers and birthdates, exactly what crooks need to sign up for a bunch of fraudulent credit cards, assuming the thieves are just criminals.

People will be comforted to know that three senior executives, Chief Financial Officer John Gamble, President of U.S. Information Solutions Joseph Loughran, and Rodolfo Ploder, president of workforce solutions, sold almost $1.8 million worth of stock just after Equifax discovered the hack.

Equifax actually figured out it had been hacked back in July, and apparently spent the time since setting up a site to respond to it and let people check if they are affected. As it requires sharing the last six digits of your Social Security and your last name with a company that may have already lost that information, it may make some people queasy.

The site also includes some fine print saying that people who choose to accept what Equifax offers through this site means people waive other representation in the future, such as participating in a class action suit.

After it was pointed out, Equifax updated the site to offer users a clunky off-line process to opt out of that clause.

Equifax is offering everyone free credit monitoring for a year, whether they were affected or not, which is a good place to start.

In a Bloomberg View commentary, Elaine Ou, a blockchain engineer at Global Financial Access, argues that this catastrophe did not have to happen, or at least it didn’t have to be this bad.

It is past time for electronic commerce to move beyond the Social Security number, something devised for government use back in paper and pencil days. It should not be everyone’s unique identifier. Much better techniques exist to identify and safeguard sensitive information online, she says.

About the only upside to this we can think of is everyone is going to get a lot more scrupulous about checking balances, statements and credit scores. Small comfort.

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