Students, officials respond to Equifax hack

Brad Allen, Managing Editor

Students and faculty who are wondering whether it’s over-the-top to change all their passwords and check their credit accounts for potential fraudulent actions might be relieved to know it’s actually the first of many steps to protect oneself against identity theft or credit fraud in the wake a massive Sept. 7 cyberattack.

As many as 143 million United States citizens may have been affected by the hack, according to reports from multiple news organizations and the Equifax website. That number equals out to approximately 44 percent of the entire American population.

Factoring out individuals under the age of 18, the Equifax hack may have affected up to 57 percent of the adult population in the United States, which was listed at over 249 million in a 2016 census, according to Kids Count Data Center.

Instructional, Communication & Information Technology (ICIT) Communications Specialist Dane Seckar-Anderson said the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus was not directly affected as a whole by the cyberattack targeting Equifax, a data storage and credit report company.

But students should check their credit reports consistently, Seckar-Anderson said. He added that he checks his financial and credit statements online every day.

“It’s (college students) a vulnerable group of people,” Seckar-Anderson said. “When it comes to phishing messages, if it seems too good to be true, or if it makes you feel insecure, it’s important to remain aware and to be vigilant.”

Equifax operates in 24 different countries worldwide and holds data of at least 820 million consumers and more than 91 million businesses globally, according to its website.

Equifax on Sept. 15 disclosed that approximately 400,000 people in the United Kingdom [Great Britain] were directly affected by the cyberattack.

“It’s important for people, especially young adults, to be cautious of which information they choose to share online”, freshman Padee Vang said.

Vang said people should always double check sources requesting personal information to know more specifically what they are getting into.

Senior Brendan Smith was not personally affected by the Equifax hack because he does not have a credit history, however he said he can imagine many students or faculty members were affected by the massive cyberattack.

“I can imagine many people are staring down a situation where their information is out there and they might not even know it,” Smith said.

Worse still, is if individuals are aware of their information being leaked but are unable to immediately do anything to resolve that issue.

“I’ve heard Equifax is running a hotline system, but it’s not really working,” Smith said.

Individuals whose information has been accessed through the cyberattack targeted at Equifax may be at risk of having someone open a credit card under their name through identity theft.

“It’s totally fair for people to want recompense from a company like Equifax which had a security system that was not up to par,” Smith said.  

The Sept. 7 cyberattack on Equifax is a sort of call to action for students in the personal lives as well as work and school environments, Seckar-Anderson said.

ICIT plans to launch a campaign in October aimed towards informing students of the warning signs of credit fraud and steps that can be taken to mitigate financial losses in those situations.

One way to help determine the legitimacy of a link sent in an email is to simply hover a mouse cursor over the link, Seckar-Anderson said.

ICIT encourages students or faculty members who receive messages via email that seem to be scams to forward those emails to [email protected].

The UW-W Help Desk also encourages students to contact their offices with questions or need of assistance with technical issues.