Friday, September 15, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Equifax Breach

Bruce Schneier:

Last Thursday, Equifax reported a data breach that affects 143 million US customers, about 44% of the population. It’s an extremely serious breach; hackers got access to full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers -- exactly the sort of information criminals can use to impersonate victims to banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, and other businesses vulnerable to fraud.

Many sites posted guides to protecting yourself now that it’s happened. But if you want to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, your only solution is government regulation (as unlikely as that may be at the moment).

The market can’t fix this. Markets work because buyers choose between sellers, and sellers compete for buyers. In case you didn’t notice, you’re not Equifax’s customer. You’re its product.

Rich Mogull:

Ignoring all that, the real issue is that one of the companies “trusted” with determining our financial future based on deep records of personal information was breached… and due to the current nature of our financial system, we can’t effectively protect ourselves. Our best options offer only limited protection and come at a hefty cost, due in large part to lobbying by the credit rating agencies themselves.

[…]

In each of these cases, I was offered some amount of free credit monitoring, just as Equifax has done in this latest breach. However, the free credit monitoring lasts only for a year, yet the bad guys can use my SSN for the rest of my life.

[…]

The first step is to make things harder for a criminal to create new accounts in your name. There are two tools to do this, fraud alerts and credit freezes, but only one actually works. You can find information, phone numbers, and links on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Web site:

A fraud alert places a flag on your account for 90 days. During that time a business needs to verify your identity before it can create a new account in your name. There used to be companies that could automatically renew your 90-day alerts for you, but the credit agencies sued them out of existence, which was a travesty. So, if you want an indefinite fraud alert, you need to repeat the process yourself every time it expires.

Update (2017-09-19): Jeffrey Goldberg:

There are many important things to ask about this incident, but what I am focusing on today is why has non-secret information become sensitive? None of those numbers were designed to be used as secrets (including social security numbers and credit card numbers), yet we live in a world in which we have to keep these secret. What is going on here?

Matthew Green:

While many people have criticized Equifax for its failure, I’ve noticed a number of tweets from information security professionals making the opposite case. Specifically, these folks point out that patching is hard. The gist of these points is that you can’t expect a major corporation to rapidly deploy something as complex as a major framework patch across their production systems. The stronger version of this point is that the people who expect fast patch turnaround have obviously never patched a production server.

I don’t dispute this point. It’s absolutely valid. My very simple point in this post is that it doesn’t matter. Excusing Equifax for their slow patching is both irrelevant and wrong. Worse: whatever the context, statements like this will almost certainly be used by Equifax to excuse their actions. This actively makes the world a worse place.

Bloomberg (via Hacker News):

Equifax Inc. learned about a major breach of its computer systems in March -- almost five months before the date it has publicly disclosed, according to three people familiar with the situation.

Update (2017-10-03): Sarah Buhr (via Hacker News):

In a continued effort to pass on any responsibility for the largest data breach in American history, Equifax’s recently departed CEO is blaming it all on a single person who failed to deploy a patch.

openasocket:

There’s a mantra at my company that you can’t assign blame for a problem to a particular person. If one person is capable of breaking your system, you have a bad system. The focus isn’t on finding the one person or the one mistake that caused it, but fixing the process so one person or one mistake can’t wreak that much havoc. I think it’s a very good philosophy.

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