The massive Equifax data breach has already led to the filing of more than 30 lawsuits seeking class-action status. One of the lawsuits, filed in Portland, Oregon, is demanding up to $70 billion in damages.
The lawsuits are just one measure of the fury generated by Equifax – one of the three biggest U.S. data brokers – revealing Thursday that it suffered a breach, beginning in May, that exposed to hackers 143 million consumers’ personal details, including information that could be used to commit identity theft.
In its alert issued Thursday, Equifax said that it discovered the breach July 29 and launched a website that consumers can use to see if their data was exposed. The company is offering all U.S. consumers one year of prepaid credit monitoring, which includes freezing their credit reports on Equifax. But it has not offered to do the same with consumers’ credit reports at other data brokers.
Almost immediately following the breach notification, affected consumers began filing lawsuits – more than 30 by Sunday, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, attorneys general in at least five states – including New York and Illinois – have also announced formal breach investigations. And several Congressional committees are launching or eyeing breach-related hearings. Equifax has also promised to work with regulators in Canada and the United Kingdom, where some victims reside.
Hardest hit by the breach, however, were those who live in the U.S. The breach exposed information on nearly half of all U.S. adults, including names, birthdates, addresses, Social Security numbers and in some cases, driver’s license numbers. All of that data is regularly used to verify an individual’s identity, and thus it’s also valuable for identity thieves.
“The quality of data potentially compromised is very valuable to cybercriminals,” cybersecurity attorney Imran Ahmad tells Information Security Media Group. “What these guys are looking for is high value bits of information. The reason they like this type of data is because they can easily on the darknet sell these and create virtual profiles and sell them to others.”