Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota has blasted the executives of Equifax Inc. for the fallout of a data breach that reportedly compromised millions of Americans' private information. Heitkamp has called for legal consequences for how the company allegedly handled the aftermath of the hack.
On Sept. 7, consumer credit reporting agency Equifax disclosed that hackers had breached its system from May through July 2017. The hackers had access to the names, addresses, birthdays, driver's license numbers and Social Security numbers of up to 143 million people. Over 200,000 credit card numbers were confirmed stolen, The New York Times reports.
"This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do," said Equifax CEO Richard F. Smith in a statement. "Confronting cybersecurity risks is a daily fight."
The credit bureau has faced fierce criticism for its handling of the data breach. Equifax staff learned of the hack on July 29 but did not alert the public for over a month. On Aug. 1, three senior executives sold off nearly $2 million of their shares from the company, Bloomberg reports.
Equifax spokesperson Ines Gutzmer asserted that the executives "had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time."
On Sept. 12, Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, asserted that the stock sale merited an investigation.
"If that happened, somebody needs to go to jail," Heitkamp said during a conference in Washington, D.C., according to Reuters. "It's a problem when people can act with impunity with no consequences. How is that not insider trading?"
Meanwhile, Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin stated during a conference in New York that the Equifax breach emphasized the need to bolster cybersecurity, CNBC reports.
Mnuchin described the Equifax breach as "quite unfortunate... I can assure you that we are working with all of the intelligence agencies on cyber issues to keep Americans safe."
On Sept. 11, the Senate Committee on Finance requested that Equifax turn over documents related to the data breach and to explain their cybersecurity measures, TIME reports.
"The scope and scale of this breach appears to make it one of the largest on record, and the sensitivity of the information compromised may make it the most costly to taxpayers the consumers," the committee stated in a letter, adding that the credit bureau had to respond by Sept. 28.
Following Equifax's disclosure of the data breach, at least 23 class-action lawsuits have been proposed against the credit agency, USA Today reports.