A class-action lawsuit targeting Equifax has revealed a series of appalling internal security practices that led to the data breach incurred by the credit reporting agency in 2017.
The lawsuit is not your typical class action involving Equifax customers. Rather, it’s a class action that represents 373 disgruntled shareholders whose individual lawsuits have been consolidated into one. The suit isn’t a new development either. However, the suit papers went viral Friday after Buzzfeed reporter Jane Lytvynenko noticed a series of major security lapses mentioned by the plaintiffs, including accusations that Equifax:
- failed to implement an adequate patch management process, while also failing to remediate known deficiencies in its cybersecurity infrastructure
- relied upon a single individual to manually implement its patching process across its entire network
- failed to encrypt sensitive data, storing it in plaintext and making it easy for unauthorized users to read and misuse
- left unencrypted sensitive data accessible through a public-facing, widely used website, enabling any attacker who compromised the website’s server to immediately access this personal data in plaintext
- failed to encrypt highly vulnerable mobile applications, therefore transmitting unencrypted data over the internet
- left the decryption keys on the same public-facing servers when it did encrypt data
And the list goes on. However, perhaps Equifax’s biggest oversight was in the authentication department. Specifically, it failed to implement multi-factor authentication and used “admin” as both username and password to authorize access to a portal used to manage credit disputes. From the suit papers:
“This portal contained a vast trove of personal information. According to cybersecurity experts, these shortcomings demonstrated ‘poor security policy and a lack of due diligence.’ Equifax’s authentication practices fell short of the data security standards, which recommend the use of multi-factor authentication.”
The suit also alleges Equifax relied on four-digit pins derived from Social Security numbers and birthdays to generate authentication passwords. These passwords were not only weak, but had already been compromised in previous breaches, plaintiffs say.