The Social Security numbers and birth dates of up to 143 million US consumers were stolen from Equifax in what appears to be one of the largest data breaches in history, Bloomberg reports. According to the Los Angeles Times, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting firms in the US, discovered the breach July 29 and announced it Thursday. In addition to birth dates and Social Security numbers, hackers had access to names, addresses, and driver's license numbers. Hackers also potentially got their hands on credit card numbers belonging to 209,000 US consumers and dispute documents tied to another 182,000 people. In all, the breach may have affected 44% of all US residents, CNBC reports.
Equifax says the data breach happened between May and July. "Criminals exploited a US website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files," the company said in a statement. Equifax says it's alerting affected customers by email and has also set up a website where people can see if their data was potentially stolen. An internal investigation is ongoing. "This is clearly a disappointing event for our company," says Equifax CEO Richard Smith, adding he apologizes for "the concern and frustration this causes."