Equifax Breach Leads to CIO, CSO Departures as Investigation Continues

The credit reporting agency confirms that it was a known vulnerability in the Apache Struts framework that enabled attackers to steal information.

Equifax Breach

Equifax announced on Sept.15 that Chief Information Officer David Webb and Chief Security Officer Susan Mauldin are retiring. The retirements are a direct result of the massive data breach that Equifax revealed on Sept. 7.

Webb is being replaced by Mark Rohrwasser, who had been the international CIO for Equifax since July 2016. The new CSO is Russ Ayres, who has been at Equifax since January 2015 working as a senior IT manager with responsibilities including compliance, business intelligence, and digital identity and fraud.

"Equifax's internal investigation of this incident is still ongoing and the company continues to work closely with the FBI in its investigation," the company stated.

In addition to the executive departures, Equifax also provided new details on the security incident that led to the exposure of personally identifiable information on 143 million Americans. According to Equifax, on July 28 its security team noticed suspicious traffic on its U.S. online dispute portal web application and blocked the traffic the same day. One day later on July 30, Equifax's security teams were still seeing suspicious traffic and decided to take the entire impacted application offline.

Equifax has also confirmed reports that the initial attack vector into the breached application was a known vulnerability in the open-source Apache Struts framework. The specific vulnerability is CVE-2017-5638, which was patched by the Apache Struts project in March 2017. It's not entirely clear why Equifax was unable to patch the known vulnerability in March, before attackers exploited the dispute portal web application in May.

"Equifax's Security organization was aware of this (CVE-2017-5638) vulnerability at that time, and took efforts to identify and to patch any vulnerable systems in the company’s IT infrastructure," Equifax stated. "While Equifax fully understands the intense focus on patching efforts, the company’s review of the facts is still ongoing."

International Impact

While Equifax disclosed that personally identifiable information on 143 million American was exposed in the breach, what is not known is how many individuals in other countries are at risk.

In a statement also issued on Sept. 15, Equifax noted that in the United Kingdom it would likely need only to contact approximately 400,000 customers about the data breach. In Canada, the numbers are not nearly as certain, as Equifax has not publicly disclosed any estimate.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) officially opened an investigation into the Equifax breach on Sept. 15 after receiving complaints from Canadians. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission revealed on Sept. 14 that it is investigating the breach as well.

While investigations into the Equifax data breach are ongoing, the FTC is warning consumers about the risk of fraudsters calling them claiming to be Equifax.

"Ring, ring. This is Equifax calling to verify your account information. Stop. Don't tell them anything," Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, attorney with the Division of Consumer and Business Education at the FTC, wrote in a blog post. "They're not from Equifax. It's a scam. Equifax will not call you out of the blue."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.