With the latest wave of news about Equifax’s data breach revealing that even more users of the credit reporting service have had their private information revealed to malicious actors, it is a more important time than ever for companies and users to rethink their approach to internet and data security. Because credit reporting and credit checks have become ubiquitous in many types of commerce, Equifax has left the realm of offering a purely elective service and has become one of a very small group of providers who manage nearly every credit check transaction in the country.
In many ways, it is important to think about the Equifax data breach more like a public disaster than simply a corporate scandal. Credit checks, credit score, and personal identity have become more important than ever to the point that identity theft can be devastating to the victim for years to come. Equifax’s individual handling of the breach aside, the extent of damage to individuals who may have had little to no option for the handling of their data highlights the need for a change in our culture’s approach to private information.
Presently, the web is a place that is constantly asking for our data, and constantly assuring us that it will be secure. Nearly every user knows to avoid the most basic attempts at identity theft such as fake or spam email phishing, pop-ups asking for personal information, or the download of suspicious software that could contain spyware. What happens, though, when the sites and businesses that you need to use also need your private information?
Necessary Changes of Business Practice in a Post-Equifax Breach World
More and more businesses seem reluctant to conduct business without some form of credit verification these days. As an example, four major rental car brands prohibit the use of debit cards without consenting to a soft credit check before signing paperwork and receiving keys. Many such transactions have been, until now, assumed to be safe and harmless, being backed by well-respected and recognized names in credit reporting. The Equifax breach, though, has taught us that even getting a rental car at the moment can come with major, sometimes terrifying risks.
The widespread demand for customer credit information as a way to reduce business risk creates a wider culture of demand for private information, but the fact of the matter is that many companies simply haven’t developed ironclad data protection methods. An over-reliance on customer private data could lead to a disastrous loss of faith in many markets if major security breaches continue to occur. Something has to change and that change needs to be cultural.
Clients of Equifax can hardly be blamed for trusting one of the most recognized names in the world in credit reporting, especially considering that consumers are being offered fewer and fewer options for obtaining necessary products without offering up their data for verification and use. Consumers need transportation, though. They need housing, phones to communicate with their work, and access to the internet. All of these core needs for function in everyday commerce now commonly require credit checks (often utilizing Equifax.)
Companies asking for private information need to consider whether the benefit of the private information verification is actually worth the increasingly necessary investment in the safe handling of that information. Companies need to consider the damage to their business that could occur if a third party is not responsible with the data they pass to them. Set-and-forget secure data management is simply not appropriate anymore.
Consumers also need to adopt a more judicious and shrewd attitude towards their data. The Equifax security breach represents one of the most significant consumer data breaches in history. Consumers simply cannot take the backseat on their private data in the modern world anymore.
Thankfully, tools and techniques do exist for the management and protection of private information. The Federal Trade Commission allows consumers to place fraud alerts and credit freezes with all credit reporting agencies in a few easy steps. Both of these help enforce credit reporting companies’ responsibility to carefully and responsibly watch for fraudulent behavior. Additionally, consumers can partner with trustworthy digital security agencies for education and assistance with controlling the use of their data online.
Cultural change on data and internet security has to be a multi-front approach. Everyone, from corporate leadership to individual consumers, has to take personal action in order to prevent the widespread chaos that ruthless criminals on the web hope to instigate for their own benefit. The last decade and a half has brought incredible growth and innovation to the world via the internet, but if we hope to sustain the continued thriving of internet-based commerce and internet-enhanced commerce, steps to build an internet culture of security and healthy privacy have to be taken together.
Concerned about the Impact of the Equifax Breach on You?
Would you like to learn more? Are you looking for an agency that can help you manage your personal security or your company’s implementation of security best practices? We can help! Come visit us today at www.nixa.ca!