Equifax knew about cyber vulnerabilities before attack, ex-CEO claims

Equifax wins IRS' identity verification contract despite suffering massive data breach

CNBC caught the man as cameras filmed the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the data breach that exposed 145 million people's personally identifiable information to hackers.

When questioned by the House subcommittee on the matter of executives selling shares just days after the breach was discovered, he said they did not know about the breach "to the best of my knowledge".

Equifax had disclosed on September 7, along with the hacking incident, that three of its top executives, including its chief financial officer, had sold $1.8 million worth of company stock.

"We experience millions of suspicious potential attacks each year", Smith said.

One of three main credit reporting agencies in the US next to Experian and TransUnion, Equifax stores a trove of highly sensitive personal and financial details about consumers.

Equifax's ex-CEO faced a barrage of criticism from Congress on Tuesday during a relentless hearing that lasted more than three hours - but was reluctant to give new details about how 145.5 million people had their information stolen.

"Until we get those answers, Equifax should not be rewarded for reckless data protection with a $US7.25 ($9) million IRS contract".

Schakowsky and several other Democrats touted proposed legislation, repeatedly introduced and stalled in Congress, that aims to establish data security standards, require prompt breach notification and require relief for consumers affected by incidents. Anyone impacted by the Equifax breach should be notified by mail.

Smith said when he started with Equifax 12 years ago there was no one in cybersecurity. Criminals stole the data between May and July, Equifax said.

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Smith offered a timeline of what went wrong, saying the Department of Homeland Security warned the company on March 8 about the need to patch a particular vulnerability in software used by Equifax and other businesses.

"I'm here today to each and every person affected by this breach - I'm truly and deeply sorry for what happened", said Smith.

"I think it's time to put some teeth into this", Barton said.

Equifax says fewer than 400,000 United Kingdom consumers had some of their personal information compromised, but it was more limited in scope and unlikely to lead to identity theft.

Smith also said the sales occurred after quarterly earnings were reported, which is a common practice within the company.

Equifax announced last month hackers had gained access to the personal information of almost 150 million Americans.

After the data theft was disclosed to the public more than a month later, Equifax's stock dropped about 36 percent, wiping out more than $6 billion of the value of investors' stake in the company.

As for Equifax's American customers, the turnout is considerably different. Lawmakers pondered over how to prevent similar breaches in the future, but focused on the company's failure in what might be the hearing's iconic quote: "How does this happen when so much is at stake?"

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