Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday the Equifax situation was a “very serious data breach.”
“We would really urge consumers now to be very careful in monitoring their credit reports and financial situation,” she said at the press conference following the conclusion of the FOMC’s two-day meeting.
“More generally, it points to the importance of strong cybersecurity controls and attention to cybersecurity risks, which we do see as one of the most significant risks to the financial sector,” she said. “We’re very focused in our banking supervision in making sure that banks have appropriate controls in place. The Equifax breach highlights the importance of that.”
She added that the Fed is working with banks that it supervises to make sure that they take “appropriate actions with respect to their business processes in light of the fact that there could be breaches or fraudulent transactions or information that they receive that they might use.”
Equifax reported earlier this month a massive data breach, saying hackers may have accessed the personal details, including names and Social Security numbers, of more than 143 million consumers from mid-May to July.
Equifax, which said it learned of the breach in late July, said credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and certain documents for another 182,000 were also accessed.
The disclosure was swiftly met with criticism because of the delay in alerting the public to the hack, as well as problems with the website Equifax set up for people to check whether their details were at risk.
The hack is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission and has prompted promises for inquiries in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Equifax officials are also reportedly being investigated by the US Justice Department after selling stock before the company revealed a data breach that exposed the personal information of millions of Americans.
According to Bloomberg, the department is looking at sales by Equifax’s CFO, John Gamble; president of US information solutions, Joseph Loughran; and president of workforce solutions, Rodolfo Ploder. The three senior executives dumped almost $US2 million worth of stock days after the company learned of the breach, Securities and Exchange Commission filings show. An emailed statement from the credit-monitoring agency said the executives “had no knowledge” of the breach beforehand.
All of the executives still owned thousands of shares of the company after the sales were completed, filings show.
As for the Federal Reserve, the central bank confirmed on Wednesday, as expected, that it would start trimming the $US4.5 trillion balance sheet it built up after the Great Recession. No member of the Federal Open Market Committee, which decides policy, disagreed with this move.
It left its benchmark interest rate unchanged, in a range of 1% to 1.25%.