Opinion: Breach demands firm fixes

It’s a pleasant surprise that the still-unfolding Equifax breach has drawn the ire of politicians on both sides of the aisle.

That may be the only pleasing aspect of an epic security lapse that exposed financial and personal data of as many as 145 million Americans. The latest revelation this week indicates info from 10.9 million driver licenses has been hacked too.

It’s expected that politicians will showboat in seeking to gain advantage from high-profile episodes like this one. What’s rare these days is to hear strong criticism of what happened from both GOP and Democratic lawmakers. That’s a refreshing development, but only if it indicates an intention after all the speechifying’s done to genuinely focus on the potential victims — all 143 million of them.

Given the essential role of Equifax and other similar players as key clearinghouses on the financial side of America’s economy, this crisis indicates thorough improvements are needed.

During his multi-day grilling before members of Congress, now-retired (read jettisoned) Equifax CEO Rick Smith made suggestions that bear rapid, further study. He suggested an industry standard to allow consumers to freeze their credit reports at no cost to them as a way to help bar potential hackers. Smith also suggested that government consider replacing Social Security numbers with a more-secure identifier matching “the technological age in which we live.”

There’s no doubt that Equifax bungled its handling of the breach all along the way. We believe the Atlanta-based giant can recover. We also believe that Congress and the rest of government should not similarly make their own missteps in seeking to quickly strengthen protections of critical consumer data. This task is too important to allow any other outcome.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

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