A classic TV show I haven’t seen in a while is The Life Of Riley. It was originally a 1949 movie starring William Bendix and a 1949 TV series that starred Jackie Gleason that ran for two seasons, but what most people think of when they hear the name is the TV series starring Bendix that ran from 1953 to 1958. At some point during each of those shows (usually toward the end), Chester Riley (Bendix) would face the camera and say “What a revoltin’ development this is!”
Fortunately, some kind soul has put many of the shows on YouTube. Here’s the first, where he tries to help his daughter Babs become freshman class president.
“A revoltin’ development” is how some might describe the latest mess caused by Atlanta-based Equifax, one of three credit-reporting bureaus in the United States (the other two are Experian and TransUnion). When you apply for a credit card, home loan, mortgage, anything involving your credit, the creditor checks your credit-worthiness with one of the three bureaus (sometimes all three) before lending you money. Sometimes companies will check your credit score before offering you a job, and I would bet that more than a few people considering marriage run a credit check on their partner before popping or answering the question. I mean, it’s a huge business, and you have no choice but to play the game. Whether or not you consider yourself one of Equifax’s clients, they have all of your information: name, current and past addresses, phone numbers, date of birth and taxpayer identification (i.e. Social Security) number. Anyone getting their hands on that information can “steal your identity,” i.e. impersonate you, obtaining loans you don’t know about and that they have no intention of paying.
So, you would expect that a company with that kind of sensitive information at its fingertips would be very careful about guarding it, wouldn’t you?
Well, evidently Equifax discovered that the records of 143 million or so individuals (mostly in the US and Canada) were taken by a clever hacker exploiting a security flaw in their servers. They made this discovery at the end of July, but didn’t choose to inform people that their records might have been taken until last week. During the six weeks between making this discovery and letting people know about it, several officers of the company sold their stock, leading many to believe that they knew about it but kept up appearances so they didn’t lose too much.
This has me quite upset. Number one, 143 million is an estimate, and likely a low one, but it represents close to half the population of the United States. Number two, I have friends that worked for Equifax. Emphasis on worked: about fifteen years ago, Equifax outsourced their IT department by selling to a new company and transferring its IT staff to the new company, so even though they were still working at Equifax, they no longer worked for them. And number three, the people who stole the information got a six-week head start while Equifax management were covering their asses to keep the stock price high so they wouldn’t lose too much money.
Pardon my French for just a minute: I’m really pissed off about this. This is a massive fuck-up on their part, and I don’t think they’re taking it seriously enough. The people who sold their stock took advantage of their insider knowledge to avoid personal losses. Hell, Martha Stewart spent time in jail for insider trading that’s peanuts compared to this. And we’re the ones who are on the hook. It’s our identities that have been compromised, and now our responsibility to ensure (as best we can) that we don’t get hurt by this.
Revoltin’ development, indeed…
Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now, here’s Mike Wallace with a word about Fluffo!