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Wharton – After Equifax, Can Our Data Ever Be Safe?

Follow up to previous posting – Equifax is one of many companies that collect information about you – via [email protected] – “In the annals of data breaches, the Equifax hacking stands alone due to its sheer scale: Digital thieves traipsed through the personal information of 143 million Americans for several months to do with it as they pleased. “It is quite possibly the most serious data breach we’ve ever had in terms of its potential cost,” says Gerald Faulhaber, Wharton professor emeritus of business economics and public policy. “Whoever hacked it, wherever these things end up, this could be costing U.S. consumers billions of dollars over the next decade. It’s terrible.” What makes the breach especially risky for consumers is that Equifax — one of three national credit bureaus — held in one place crucial personal information regularly accessed by lenders, banks, credit card companies and other entities to assess one’s creditworthiness and do things like assign applicable interest rates. At the center of this data is the Social Security number (SSN), which consumers need in order to take out loans, get a job and perform other key activities. “If someone gets my Social Security number, there’s a lot of things they can do,” Faulhaber says. “That’s one of the things that make this a very dangerous hack…”

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