Kansas and 49 other states and jurisdictions have reached a settlement with Equifax as the result of an investigation into a massive 2017 data breach that exposed the personal information of more than 1.1 million Kansans, Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Monday.
The investigation found that Equifax’s failure to maintain a reasonable security system enabled hackers to penetrate its systems, exposing the data of 56 percent of American adults—the largest-ever breach of consumer data. The state attorneys general secured a settlement with Equifax that includes a Consumer Restitution Fund of up to $425 million, a $175 million payment to the states, and injunctive relief, which also includes a significant financial commitment.
“We take seriously our responsibility to ensure all companies that hold Kansans’ personal information fulfill their legal duties to protect it,” Schmidt said. “Securing today’s settlement was especially important because of the sheer number of people who were affected. This is the largest data breach enforcement action in history, and all Kansans should inquire with the settlement administrator about whether their information was put at risk and whether they are eligible for consumer restitution as a result.”
For answers to frequently asked questions, information about available restitution, and to sign up to receive email updates about the settlement, consumers should visit www.ftc.gov/equifax-data-breach or call the settlement administrator at 1-833-759-2982.
On September 7, 2017, Equifax, one of the largest consumer reporting agencies in the world, announced a data breach affecting more than 147 million consumers— more than half of the U.S. population. Breached information included social security numbers, names, dates of birth, addresses, credit card numbers, and in some cases driver’s license numbers.
Shortly after, a coalition that grew to 50 attorneys general launched a multistate investigation into the breach. The investigation found that the breach occurred because Equifax failed to implement an adequate security program to protect consumers’ highly sensitive personal information. Despite knowing about a critical vulnerability in its software, Equifax failed to fully patch its systems. Moreover, Equifax failed to replace software that monitored the breached network for suspicious activity. As a result, the attackers penetrated Equifax’s system and went unnoticed for 76 days.
Under the terms of the settlement, Equifax agreed to provide a single Consumer Restitution Fund of up to $425 million—with $300 million dedicated to consumer redress. If the $300 million is exhausted, the fund can increase by up to an additional $125 million. The company will also offer affected consumers extended credit-monitoring services for a total of 10 years.
Equifax has also agreed to take several steps to assist consumers who are either facing identity theft issues or who have already had their identities stolen including, but not limited to, terms:
- making it easier for consumers to freeze and thaw their credit;
- making it easier for consumers to dispute inaccurate information in credit reports; and
- requiring Equifax to maintain sufficient staff dedicated to assisting consumers who may be victims of identity theft.
Equifax has also agreed to strengthen its security practices going forward, including:
- reorganizing its data security team;
- minimizing its collection of sensitive data and the use of consumers’ Social Security numbers;
- performing regular security monitoring, logging and testing;
- employing improved access control and account management tools;
- reorganizing and segmenting its network; and
- reorganizing its patch management team and employing new policies regarding the identification and deployment of critical security updates and patches.
Equifax also agreed to pay the states a total of $175 million, which includes $1,352,358.48 for Kansas.
Consumers who are eligible for redress will be required to submit claims online or by mail. Paper claims forms can also be requested over the phone. Consumers will be able to obtain information about the settlement, check their eligibility to file a claim, and file a claim on the Equifax Settlement Breach online registry. The program to pay restitution to consumers will be conducted in connection with settlements that have been reached in the multi-district class actions filed against Equifax, as well as settlements that were reached with the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
A copy of the settlement agreement can be found at http://bit.ly/2Yo8Iyc.