Former Equifax CEO apologizes for hack

Equifax has announced the results of a review which show that more consumers may have been caught up in last month's massive data breach

The former CEO of Equifax, Rick Smith, sat in the hot seat Tuesday morning as lawmakers peppered him with questions and criticisms.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce's three-hour hearing was held to answer questions about this year's breach from mid-May to the end of July, when hackers obtained information on over 143 million people from Equifax, or about 44 percent of the US population.

Equifax revealed last month that it had endured a massive cybersecurity breach in July, potentially exposing the personal information for nearly half of all Americans, including names, dates of birth and social security numbers.

In another exchange, Smith said he had "no indication of a breach" prior to the date of the stock sales, only of "suspicious activity".

CEO Richard Smith took the hot seat on Capitol Hill again on Wednesday, senators were full of questions about the company's sole source anti-fraud prevention contract, recently renewed with the IRS. A more comprehensive service, a credit freeze, blocks access to credit files unless a consumer provides a personal identification number to the agency.

Equifax Inc. said Monday that it has revised down the number of Canadians affected by its high-profile data breach and now puts the number at about 8,000 customers. The breached data may have included names, addresses, social insurance numbers and, in limited cases, credit card numbers. "As far as protection to the consumer, as far as ability to lock and unlock as opposed to freeze and unfreeze, the lock is far more consumer friendly", Smith said.

Smith's appearance before a House subcommittee Tuesday morning is the first of several he'll make this week as House and Senate panels review a data breach that affected an estimated 145 million Americans.

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"I don't know that we can pass a law that, pardon me for saying, can fix the stupid", he added.

Mandiant has been hired to conduct an examination of the breach and has said that it plans to release the results "promptly".

Later, Smith conceded that it was a "mistake" to include language for a credit monitoring system that would force customers into arbitration if they wanted to sue the company.

Smith noted that in addition to his departure, the company's chief information officer and chief security officer also left the company following the breach.

In the wake of the disclosure, the company has come under fire over its decision to delay the public announcement of the breach for over a month and is also being scrutinised for three executives selling shares just days after the organisation learned of the breach, but before it was made public.

"It would be a paradigm shift for the consumer", Smith said. Equifax says that it will be mailing written notices to all of these consumers.

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