Past time for go after sleazy Equifax, et al.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' on

Credit-rating companies’ neglect of adequate cybersecurity obligations is well known. Thus the catastrophic hacking into the personal data of 150 million Americans at Equifax – including, God help us, Social Security numbers! – wasn’t a total surprise, as outrageous as it was. Taking the expensive actions necessary to improve security at least enough to prevent a hack of this magnitude might cut the companies’ quarterly earnings and stock price. That would be unacceptable to their grossly overpaid senior executives. Now, of course, the future of this far too powerful and arrogant enterprise may be in doubt.

Energetic lobbying by these companies has ensured that they pay a small price for presiding over an environment in which their customers’ economic lives can be ruined. Proposed regulations mandating much tougher cybersecurity provisions and punishment for breaches have been blocked.

And laws must be changed to hold data-product companies, such as Equifax, liable, via lawsuits, for the damage that their negligence (and worse) does to the public, just as are companies that sell physical things. At the same time, GOP efforts to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should be stopped. With too-powerful credit-rating  agencies and corrupt banks such as Well Fargo, consumers need all the champions they can find.

Of course, we know that everything is hackable. There is no final security in cyberspace, and it’s an increasingly nasty place, in which we’re trapped. But many American companies make hacking remarkably easy because they don’t want to spend the money to reduce it.

In any event, “Everything is going to be hacked eventually. That’s just the way it goes,” Russell Vines, a cybersecurity expert at Consumers Union, told The Washington Post. “So everyone has to make provisions for what happens after.”

That means, of course, such measures as changing passwords and combing through credit-card bill and bank statements – for as long as you live.

The convenience of online activities and companies’ relentless campaigns to make you put as much of your life  as  technologically possible  in cyberspace so that the firms can lay off more employees has left us all in swamps teeming with criminals.  But you can cut your chances of being hacked and stolen from by reducing your online financial activities as much as possible. For example, online banking is a menace. Keep it to minimum. Stick to paper as much as you can.

Meanwhile, the Feds and businesses need to come up with ways to reduce the very dangerous reliance on Social Security numbers as primary identification. Consider that these numbers are connected to jobs, taxes, loans, government benefits and security clearances. We need alternate forms of identification. It’s getting urgent.

Equifax isa truly sleazy operation. (Try calling them, by the way.) They discovered the hack on July 29 but didn’t deign to tell the world until Sept. 8. Why? Well, it’s interesting to  learn that three Equifax execs sold $2 million of Equifax stock right after the company discovered the breach in July. The execs denied that they knew about the breach.

Given the high-level of the execs that’s very hard  to believe. The officers are:

Chief financial officer John Gamble; president of U.S. information solutions Joseph Loughran, and president of workforce solutions Rodolfo Plode.