By Nick Ortiz
On Feb. 27, California’s District 45 Freshman Representative Katie Porter questioned Equifax CEO, Mark Begar, in a Housing Financial Services Committee hearing about the company’s data breach in 2017.
Porter announced she would be serving the Housing Financial Services Committee in early January. She has nearly 20 years experience as a bankruptcy and commercial law professor at the University of California, Irvine and has an extensive history of activism for financially insecure families.
The hearing on Feb. 27 was to address Equifax’s failure to patch a vulnerability in an open-source web software, known as Apache Struts, in an appropriate time frame. The breach, which originally occurred in Aug. 2017, was not disclosed by Equifax until a month later. The company stated that 143 million — later revealed to be 148 million clients’ information — was accessed by hackers that took advantage of Equifax’s cyber vulnerability.
“My question to you is whether you [Begar] would be willing to share, today: your social security, your birth date and your address at this public hearing?” Porter began when she was given the floor.
Begar claimed he would rather not share such sensitive information at the hearing. Porter then asked what could happen if such information were to be accessed, to which both Porter and Begar agreed that getting ahold of such information could lead to identity theft. Begar then revealed that he himself is a former victim of identity theft.
“It happened [to me] three times, in the last ten years,” Begar explained. “Twice with my tax returns and once as a customer, some opening fraudulent bank accounts in my name. Somehow they got my social security number, my date of birth and my address. Then, changed the addressed and opened up an account.”
Begar concluded that “like all Americans, we’re concerned about [our sensitive information].”
Porter proceeded to question why the lawyers that represent Begar are claiming in federal court that there was no harm or injury done to anyone in the midst of the data breach. In his response, Begar admitted to miscommunication between his lawyers and himself.
“It’s really hard for me to comment on what our lawyers are doing,” Begar said.
Before Begar’s statement was finished, Porter fired back.
“You do employ those lawyers and they do operate on your direction,” she said. “Arguing, on the record, that this case should be dismissed because there was ‘no injury and no harm’ created by the disclosure of people’s personal credit information.”
Porter reprimanded Begar out of concern for the information leak that caused the data breach. Lawyers representing Equifax are claiming there “was not injury and no harm” done.
She stated that Begar did not disclose his information for fear of theft, referencing how, just seconds before, Begar had agreed that access to such information would cause harm. Porter pointed out the double-standard that Equifax should be held responsible for what their lawyers are saying about the data breach.
Porter has exercised the Democratic Party’s push for new and more cybersecurity laws that could prevent mass data breaches, like Equifax’s, to happen again.