EQUIFAX, like all credit-monitoring firms, trades on its ability to handle sensitive financial information. So there was grim irony in the news that the firm has been the victim of a particularly big and damaging data breach.
The company reckons that more than 143m people, mostly Americans, have been affected. The pilfered data include addresses, credit-card details and Social Security numbers. The Social Security numbers are especially valuable: they are the closest thing America has to a centralised national-identity system, and are far harder to change than a password on a compromised account.
A series of self-inflicted wounds made things much worse (see article). A rickety website set up so that customers could check whether they had been affected seemed to require them to waive their right to sue (not so, insisted the firm, which later changed the site).
Read more: The lessons of Equihack