Brock University Assistant Professor Karen Louise Smith, whose research focuses on digital literacy, data and privacy can speak from personal experience when it comes to concerns over the recent Equifax Inc. cyberattack. She believes she might be one of the victims.
On Thursday, Equifax officials announced that between May and July, hackers accessed personal information including names, birth dates, home addresses, identification numbers and some credit card numbers for as many as 143 million clients in Canada, the U.S. and Britain.
Information on how many Canadians are affected has not been made available, and it’s unclear how Canadians can determine if their information was compromised in the breach.
Among the Canadians who may have been impacted is Smith, an assistant professor in Brock’s Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film.
Smith recently had to provide an Equifax credit report to obtain electricity at home.
Calling the data breach “highly alarming,” she points out that, in many cases, Canadians are required to use credit reporting services.
“We should be able to trust them with our personal information,” says Smith.
A class-action lawsuit has already been filed against Equifax in the US, but immediate concerns for consumers are more pressing.
Smith believes her information is at risk and will register to enrol in the TrustedID Premier protection offered by Equifax. She will also be monitoring her financial accounts closely for signs of fraud.
But she remains highly concerned that Canadian-specific information is not available on the Equifax website at this time.
“I will be watching to see if Equifax provides details on what identifiers — social insurance numbers, names, dates of birth — were breached, and if they offer any advice to impacted Canadians. I hope the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada can also assist impacted Canadians to understand what steps we can take to mitigate the breach,” says Smith.
If social insurance numbers are affected, Canadians need to know as soon as possible.
“Once your SIN is used fraudulently, it’s challenging to deal with,” Smith says. “If it is revealed that SINs were breached, it could put many Canadians and customers of Equifax in a difficult situation.”
Smith’s work on digital literacy, data and privacy has been published in Surveillance & Society and Computer Supported Cooperative Work