Former Equifax CEO blames breach on one IT employee

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Former Equifax chief executive Richard Smith was grilled by animated lawmakers Tuesday, during the first congressional hearing after the company disclosed a massive security breach.

Legislation to avert future data breaches like the one at Equifax Inc. will fall short because none can fully prevent human error, a US congressman told the company's former top executive.

Smith's testimony comes a day after Equifax increased its estimate of the number of people affected, saying the hack exposed an additional 2.5 million people, for a total of 145.5 million, USA Today reported.

Smith said consumers will have more control over their Equifax account with a new, free service the company will offer by January 31st.

"The criminal hack happened on my watch, and as CEO, I am ultimately responsible, and I take full responsibility", Smith said.

Equifax said last month that its computer systems were hacked between May 13 and July 30. Trouble is, the software provider supplied a patch back in March that should have eliminated that vulnerability.

"I have no indications that they had any knowledge of the breach at the time they made the sale", he said.

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Equifax keeps a trove of consumer data for banks and other creditors who want to know whether a customer is likely to default. But that may not be enough for lawmakers and consumer advocates who have asked the credit agency for more extensive remedies and protections.

Earlier this month, the credit reporting company announced that crucial, identifying information belonging to almost half the country may have been compromised, including birth dates, home addresses and Social Security numbers. Security experts have said that the ripple effects will be felt for years to come and that the ultimate costs are hard to discern.

Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, says he wants to let congressional hearings into the Equifax breach run their course before making any decisions about where Congress should act to prevent future disclosures of Americans' personal information. The data of customers in Canada and the United Kingdom have also been stolen.

Smith noted that in addition to his departure, the company's chief information officer and chief security officer also left the company following the breach.

The company released the new figure after cybersecurity firm Mandiant, which Equifax hired to investigate the breach it disclosed on September 7, finished the forensic portion of its probe. Smith was the lone witness at the first of several Capitol Hill hearings this week.

Smith described the executives as "honorable men, men of integrity".

- Separately, the administration of President Donald Trump is considering replacing the use of Social Security numbers as personal identifiers in the wake of the Equifax hack, White House cyber-security coordinator Rob Joyce said at a conference on October 3, Bloomberg reported. From there, the company investigated the breach.

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