U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren yesterday said she has launched an investigation of Equifax Inc.’s data breach that may have exposed sensitive personal information of 143 million Americans, and she introduced legislation that would allow consumers to freeze and unfreeze their credit for free.
The Bay State Democrat said the consumer credit reporting agency’s response to the cybersecurity breach, discovered by Equifax on July 29 and announced last week, was delayed and lackluster.
“Equifax has failed to provide the necessary information describing exactly how this happened and exactly how your security systems failed,” Warren said in a letter to Equifax CEO Richard Smith. “Equifax’s initial efforts to provide customers information did nothing to clarify the situation and actually appeared to be efforts to hoodwink them into waiving important legal rights.”
Hackers exploited a website application vulnerability to access consumer data including names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security, driver’s license and credit card numbers, and dispute documents, according to Equifax, which didn’t respond to Herald inquiries. Equifax released more details about the breach yesterday and its response, and announced the immediate retirements of its chief information and security officers.
Warren’s proposed Freedom From Equifax Exploitation Act would require consumer credit reporting agencies to freeze and unfreeze access to consumers’ credit files for free. It also would prevent them from profiting from consumers’ information during a freeze, increase fraud alert protections, allow consumers to get an additional free credit report and require the agencies to refund fees charged for freezes following the Equifax breach.
In letters to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission, Warren also asked for more information about the breach, what steps they’re taking to investigate it and whether they need more regulatory power over the consumer credit reporting agencies.