Congress Wants Equifax to Answer Questions About Massive Data Breach
High-ranking U.S. lawmakers want to know more about Equifax’s major data breach that has compromised the personal information of tens of millions of U.S. residents.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) said Friday that his committee intends to hold a hearing on the historic data breach, which cybersecurity experts said dwarf other high-profile security incidents affecting companies like Yahoo (YHOO) and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Hensarling said his committee hasn’t determined when the hearing would be scheduled.
The Equifax data breach is more serious than others because of its sheer size and the sensitive personal data that may have been leaked. The credit monitoring company said the data breach, which was discovered on July 29 and disclosed publicly on Thursday, could impact 143 million people with birth dates and Social Security and drivers license numbers being compromised. Equifax also said that the “credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed.”
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“This is obviously a very serious and very troubling situation and our committee has already begun preparations for a hearing,” Hensarling said in a statement. “Large-scale security breaches are becoming all too common. Every breach leaves consumers exposed and vulnerable to identity theft, fraud and a host of other crimes, and they deserve answers.”
“After receiving an initial briefing from Equifax, I have decided to hold a hearing on the matter so that we can learn what went wrong and what we need to do to better protect consumers from serious breaches like this in the future,” Walden said in a statement.
Additionally, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.) sent a letter on Friday urging the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the incident. Lieu wants the committee to call representatives of the “Big Three” credit reporting agencies—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax—to testify.
Although Experian and TransUnion don’t appear to be involved with the Equifax data breach, Lieu wants all of the credit reporting companies to detail their cybersecurity practices and what they are doing to prevent future incidents.
“Ultimately, consumer credit agencies should be one of our lines of defense against cyber attacks, and it is deeply disturbing whenever a firm that holds such valuable information gets breached,” Lieu wrote.
Fortune contacted Equifax for comment about the proposed hearings and will update this story if it responds.
Equifax CEO Richard Smith previously apologized on Thursday for the data breach and said, “This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do.”
“We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations,” Smith said in a statement. “We also are focused on consumer protection and have developed a comprehensive portfolio of services to support all U.S. consumers, regardless of whether they were impacted by this incident.”
The Wall Street Journal also reported that prior to Equifax’s data breach disclosure on Thursday, a congressional panel was debating a proposed bill that would lower the fines credit-monitoring companies receive when they issue flawed credit reports for their customers.
Equifax’s data breach could potentially derail the bill, which was proposed by Republican congressmen who want to cut back on government regulations, the report explained.