How big can a crisis get before people just move on?
That’s the question the Equifax hack has set at our feet. The breach, which affected an impossible-even-to-envision-at-once 143 million Americans, put the functional equivalent of everyone’s online identities and personal data at risk of theft, exploitation or publication.
And what’s the reaction?
Enterprising clicksters online have made annoying discoveries that shrank down the case for panicked action. Enter a random string of numbers or gibberish into Equifax’s have-I-been-hacked page, for instance, and you got an automatic yes answer. Or, here’s a good one: Equifax turned out — until companies compensated in the wake of the disaster — to be what’s called a root Certificate Authority, used to validate secure websites around the world.
While corrective measures are being taken by people versed in arcane information almost all those 143 million people have no clue about, Equifax is dropping bit after bit of dispiriting news. The vulnerability the hack exploited was left unpatched in March. The breach itself took place six weeks before consumers were notified. And now, we learn some 200,000 credit cards have also been snagged by the wrongdoers.
Of course, there will likely be congressional hearings, not to mention a small armada of lawsuits. And, naturally, it’s never a good idea, strictly speaking, to adopt a fatalistic, devil-may-care attitude toward your personal financial security. Still, if you feel like there’s almost no point in trying to do anything about any of this, you’re not alone. There’s a vicious, borderline Orwellian cycle here. The institutions tasked to keep your most essential information safe now seem just as hard to trust and just as opaque and unaccountable as the bad guys.
Just look at Wells Fargo, which has “found,” over the course of nearly a year, a rolling total of some 3.5 million fake accounts created for no greater or lesser reason than to pad sales figures. Hundreds of thousands of customers were slapped with bogus fees or enrolled in online bill-pay without their authorization. Executives have launched into damage control mode, but really, the ultimate damage control is the disheartened certainty sinking into American life that today’s barrage of crises will be replaced by a fresh batch next year, or next month, each of us just a speck of dust twirling in the maelstrom.
“I don’t think I’ve gotten hold of a person that actually cares….