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After the Equifax Breach

Is there any way past the cycles of breach and contrition? Equifax let hackers steal the private financial and personal details of 143 million Americans by leaving a hole in its system unpatched for months.

Bryce Covert’s New York Times op-ed notes, “We are not the customers of credit reporting companies, but the product.” In her view, there shouldn’t be a private credit rating industry. “Given how poorly they operate and how little incentive their business model gives them to improve, their duties should be handed over to public institutions.”

Even such a significant shift would not be a fix alone, according to experts consulted by Knowledge@Wharton. They call for laws clarifying the obligations of companies, harsher penalties for firms that don’t fulfill their duties, and a defined role for the military in securing our digital borders.

What about those who were exposed in the breach? Ron Lieber of the New York Times has been fielding reader questions and explaining what to do next ("freeze" your credit file at all three major agencies, when you can get through.) He has been struck by a sense of "helplessness" among consumers—"the recognition that we are at the mercy of an industry that makes money off our data, treats us with disdain and answers to no one."