United States: Equifax Breach: 3 Immediate Steps Leading Companies Are Taking To Respond

Equifax, one of the three nationwide credit bureaus that track and rate the financial history of consumers, announced in September that it had suffered a data breach exposing personal information of up to 143 million Americans. The personal information of individuals in the United Kingdom and Canada was also involved in the breach. Below we lay out the three most important steps companies are taking in response to the breach and provide six additional common practices that companies are embracing to further enhance their cyber detection, response and mitigation.

What happened?

According to Equifax, between mid-May and July 2017, cybercriminals exploited a web application vulnerability—specifically Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638—to gain access to its network. Once in Equifax's network, hackers were able to access information, such as names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver's license numbers. Although a patch had been available for the vulnerability on March 7, 2017, Equifax had not applied it before discovering the breach on July 29, 2017. The incident underscores how critical it is for companies to update their software with the latest patches so as to prevent hackers from exploiting known vulnerabilities to access their networks.

Who was compromised?

  • Credit card information for approximately 209,000 American consumers
  • Personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 American consumers.

Do Companies That Have Used Equifax Need to Notify Customers of the Data Breach?

In the wake of the Equifax breach, companies that have used its service to provide reports for credit-related decisions or background checks for employment purposes have raised questions about their obligations to applicants and consumers. Specifically, companies are left to ponder whether they are obligated to notify their customers and/or employees about the breach and whether they face any liability as a result of the breach.

While each company's obligations will depend on the specific nature of its relationship with Equifax, in most cases, companies that have used Equifax's credit reports will not have an independent obligation to notify potentially affected individuals of the breach. However, 48 states, the District of Columbia and certain American territories have data breach notification laws that require businesses that own, license or maintain certain personal information, including social security and driver's license numbers, to notify affected individuals when that information is acquired by an unauthorized party.

In some cases where a company collects and provides personal information to a vendor for processing and use by the vendor, the company may face potential liability in the event of a vendor breach. That is not the case with how most companies use Equifax. Equifax owns and maintains the personal information that it uses for its credit reports and background checks. Moreover, as a practical matter, Equifax has assumed the legal responsibility relating to the breach by notifying the affected individuals and relevant regulators and providing identity theft protection services.

3 Steps Leading Companies are Immediately Taking in Wake of Equifax Breach

The Equifax breach highlights the potentially high costs of data security incidents and the corresponding need for companies to adopt rigorous cybersecurity policies. In response, many leading companies are taking the following key precautions:

  1. Preparing Q&A Script to Be Ready to Answer Customer Inquiries. Many companies who issue credit, make loans and/or otherwise access and/or rely on credit reports have been preparing brief statements and Q&A scripts for customers who contact their company through call centers or websites describing the company's relationship with Equifax and the impact of the breach on their company and customers.
  2. Developing Training on Dealing with Credit Freezes. Many individuals are filing credit freezes in the wake of the Equifax breach. Where relevant for their business, to help customers and minimize business impact, some companies are implementing training for online developers, sales associates and HR personnel for responding to and dealing with individuals who are subject to a credit freeze.
  3. Reviewing and Updating Red Flags of Identity Theft. If the Equifax compromised information is misused, there may be a rise in fraudulent credit applications, attempted bank account takeovers and online/offline fraud. To better identify and respond to suspicious activity, many companies have been reviewing and updating their "red flags" potentially indicating financial and medical identify theft and enhanced monitoring of customer and company transactions for unusual, unexpected or otherwise anomalous activity.

Additional Preventive Measures Companies Should Take to Enhance Cyber Capabilities

  1. Insider Trading: Develop internal guidelines and policies for trading by insiders during a breach or other data security incident.
  2. Incident Response: Develop, update and test your incident response plan on a quarterly basis.
  3. Vulnerability Management: Conduct vulnerability scans and penetration testing on a quarterly basis.
  4. Access Control: Restrict access to sensitive personal or confidential information to only those individuals who need such access to perform their duties.
  5. Vendor Due Diligence: Conduct thorough diligence on the cybersecurity practices and procedures of vendors.
  6. Contracting: Include provisions in your vendor agreements requiring them to notify you of a data breach, provide you all relevant information, notify affected individuals, indemnify you for any third party claims arising from the breach, maintain adequate cyber insurance, and return or destroy your company's data at the end of the engagement.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
17 Oct 2017, Conference, California, United States

Women are a more powerful presence in business than ever, as entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. Join us for a half-day packed with real-worl​d know-how, firsthand experiences and an in-depth look at the entrepreneurial climate today – all designed to help entrepreneurial women take their businesses (and their careers) to the next level.​​

17 Oct 2017, Seminar, California, United States

Ivy Associates presents the annual All Hands Meeting in coordination with the Silicon Valley Association of General Counsel, an association of chief legal officers from more than one hundred leading technology and life science companies.​

17 Oct 2017, Seminar, California, United States

TEDx Wilmington is holding the first TEDx Salon dedicated to ideas worth spreading in transportation on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 in Wilmington, Delaware.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.