(credit: US Navy)
It’s a sad reality in 2017 that a data breach affecting 143 million people is dwarfed by other recent hacks—for instance, the ones hitting Yahoo in 2013 and 2014, which exposed personal details for 1 billion and 500 million users respectively; another that revealed account details for 412 million accounts on sex and swinger community site AdultFriendFinder last year; and an eBay hack in 2014 that spilled sensitive data for 145 million users.
The breach Equifax reported Thursday, however, very possibly is the most severe of all for a simple reason: the breath-taking amount of highly sensitive data it handed over to criminals.

By providing full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and, in some cases, driver license numbers, it provided most of the information banks, insurance companies, and other businesses use to confirm consumers are who they claim to be.

The theft, by criminals who exploited a security flaw on the Equifax website, opens the troubling prospect the data is now in the hands of hostile governments, criminal gangs or both and will remain so indefinitely.
Hacks hitting Yahoo and other sites, in contrast, may have breached more accounts, but the severity of the personal data was generally more limited.

And in most cases the damage could be contained by changing a password or getting a new credit card number.
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