By Paige Schaffer

The Equifax hack has already had a larger societal impact than many other large-scale data breaches. It has been reported that the incident may affect the records of approximately 143 million U.S. consumers—about 44% of the country’s population. Additionally, the types of data that were leaked are more sensitive than in many breaches, including Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII).

The resulting risks are numerous, including account takeovers, loan fraud, tax fraud, and employment fraud.

This breach should serve as a lesson for organizations of all types to upgrade their security technologies and procedures. Companies that store PII will always be a target for hackers and other nefarious parties. In general, organizations should limit the amount of PII they collect.

Regularly patching systems is also important, as is keeping firewall technology and policies current. Email security, endpoint security and backups should be other focus areas. Beyond technology, organizations must increase security awareness among their employees in order to ensure that data protection best practices are upheld.

Consumers must also take action to protect their data. Regularly checking credit reports from all three U.S. bureaus, as well as bank and credit card accounts, enables the early detection of fraud so that action to remedy the situation can be taken immediately. Additionally, having a reliable identity protection service is crucial. Strong identity protection includes online data protection software, for example anti-phishing and anti-keylogging tools. Identity monitoring of PII and alerts in order to immediately detect when suspicious activity occurs is another critical feature, as is around-the-clock support from identity resolution specialists. Identity resolution is especially important; data breaches and identity theft are inevitable, and when these incidents occur it is imperative that consumers have the assistance they need to restore their identities to good health.

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