On Thursday morning, the Federal Trade Commission published a bulletin titled "Equifax isn't calling", and warned people to beware of phone calls impersonating credit bureau staff. Apache Struts software is especially time-consuming to update because each application needs to be fixed individually. The two-month gap between when the patch was issued and when the attackers breached Equifax's network was a particularly risky time, as hackers began immediately exploiting the flaw on websites that didn't apply the fix, according to technology website Ars Technica. But a delay of several months to remove a high-priority vulnerability is generally considered a risky security practice.
"Even if you do not conduct financial transactions online, your information may be at risk", said Wiessmann.
More than 400 million accounts were affected by a breach disclosed last year at the hookup site Adult Friend Finder, and other firms affected in recent years included Heartland Payment Systems and retail giant Target. In announcing the incident on September 7, Equifax initially blamed a "website application" that it didn't identify.
However, it isn't immediately clear if the hackers attacked the company before the flaw was discovered and subsequently patched up by Apache.
Rene Gielen, vice president at the Apache Software Foundation, said in an email Thursday that the group doesn't have reliable information on how long it takes companies to apply patches for vulnerabilities.
"We've added an FAQ to our website to confirm that enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection that we are offering as part of this cybersecurity incident does not waive any rights to take legal action", according to the Equifax website. That's, uh, not a good look for Equifax's data security team.
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