Monday, September 11, 2017

How to protect yourself in a massive data breach

Hopefully, everyone is aware of the data breach at Equifax, one of the major credit bureaus. Reportedly, the data of 143 million people has been compromised, including social security numbers, names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, in short everything someone would need to commit identify theft.

Equifax is offering a website where you can go and enter your name and part of your social security number to see if you are among those whose information has been compromised. Some hackers and tech enthusiasts claim that the viability of this system is questionable as it provides different results to the same information entered in subsequent queries. It also has provided positive results for fabricated data. It's probably safe to assume that your data has been compromised and proceed from that assumption.

Equifax also provides a solution for that possibility: a year's free enrollment in their identity protection program: Trusted ID. Many are skeptical as to whether they want to trust the company whose potential gross negligence resulted in the problem in the first place.

CNET offers A guide to surviving the Equifax data breach (without Equifax's help). Not all of the information provided in this piece is uniformly agreed upon. For example, apparently enrolling in the Equifax Trusted ID program no longer requires you to opt out of a class action lawsuit. I think most of the advice about checking credit reports, freezing credit, setting fraud alerts and being vigilant during tax season is good advice.

Update 9/12/2017 - Thanks to Diane Van Gorden and Alex Clark
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft - Montana Legal Services Association

Update 9/14/2017 - Thanks to Steve Gibson on Security Now
Credit Freeze Guide: The best way to protect yourself against identity theft

Here is more information and background on the data breach from some of my preferred sources: