Lawmakers are angry over Equifax’s massive data breach. Where do we go from here?

Richard Smith went to Washington this week to face panel upon panel of angry lawmakers who questioned the former Equifax CEO on the hows and whys of last month’s massive data breach, which compromised the financial and personal information of more than 145 million Americans.

In the span of three days, Smith faced a barrage of questions from House and Senate committees in four separate congressional hearings, each providing several moments of political theater.

  • Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has co-sponsored a bill that would allow consumers to freeze their credit reports for free, said Equifax was profiting “off its own screw-up.”
  • Republican Rep. Greg Walden asked why one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies could allow such a hack to happen. “I don’t think we can pass a law that … fixes stupid,” he said.
  • And Republican Sen. John Neely Kennedy referenced Lindsey Lohan to express shock over Equifax’s recent $7.5 million no-bid contract with the Internal Revenue Service: “You realize, to many Americans right now, that looks like we’re giving Lindsay Lohan the keys to the mini-bar.”

(The Monopoly Man even photobombed Smith during one of the Senate hearings, pulling on his fake mustache and holding up a monocle to his right eye.)

Amid the sharp criticism, Smith repeatedly offered up apologies, saying he was “truly, deeply sorry” for what happened.

The pomp and circumstance, entertaining as it was, was fairly predictable — and it’s not clear if the sharp words will translate into legislation that sets better security protocols for safeguarding consumer data, such as phone numbers, Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII) found on a credit report.

We asked two cybersecurity experts about what we should take away from this week’s hearings — and what’s next.

A quick refresh on the breach

The Equifax breach was unprecedented in its reach, affecting nearly half of the U.S. population, along with at least 400,000 people in the United Kingdom and another 100,000 across Canada.

 

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