That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and chicks for free… ~ Dire Straits (“Money for Nothing”)
We’ve all heard Dire Strait’s old song “Money for Nothing” and that’s what monetizing web traffic is like for website owners. Publishers like NYTimes do it to stay alive as do behemoths like Amazon to generate additional revenue. So can we blame Equifax for wanting to make some do-re-mi off the tens of millions of new website visitors coming to their site? (cue the crickets…)
Equifax visitors, who wanted to determine if they were affected by breach, were led to the page above. Clicking on Free or Discounted Credit Report is how Equifax visitors would get served 3rd party malware. Not Equifax’s system, sure – but it’s definitely because they wanted to monetize that traffic. For those reporting Equifax’s line about “not our system that was hacked,” is similar to casting blame on Apache Struts for its issue. Let’s put on our thinking caps, shall we?
The Equifax hack news of the day seems unbelievable. After all the beating that the company and its ex-CEO has taken, you’d expect that it would have its act together by now. Right? Not so fast… On closer inspection, today’s news is predictable-–once you understand that problems will continue for Equifax as long as it has the same corporate mindset that led to the mammoth breaches of May-July 2017.
A closer look at the latest hack…
The problem starts from the fact that Equifax apparently uses a 3rd party, FireClick, as its provider for hosted application service. The purpose of using FireClick is to collect and store Web analytics re usage and data for its clients, like Equifax.
BTW: If you try to visit FireClick’s site right now, don’t bother. It’s apparently a defunct company still listed as a wholly owned subsidiary of Digital River:
The issue stems from how Digital River/FireClick integrated its ad network, including bad adware (i.e., Adware.Eorezo) in tracking, collecting and reporting Equifax’s site activity. To boil this down to the most basic terms:
- The unsuspecting consumers visit Equifax’s site
- When wanting to get details on Equifax’s Credit Report Assistance,
- The visitors are prompted to complete a form on a separate page—NOT on the original Equifax website. This is where the third party ad network comes into play. This is why Equifax is crying, “Not our system!”
- Of course, most unsuspecting visitors will proceed to fill this out and then get a prompt to download Adobe Flash Player.
- Once downloading this malware, voila! The website visitor’s machine is the happy new home of the newly acquired malicious program(s) (e.g., spyware, ransomware, etc.)
As with the Equifax breaches, one can always point to a third party (Apache struts for the May – July 2017 breaches). But the brutal fact is that the buck needs to stop with Equifax. For those naysayers who want to say that class actions don’t help, I will direct them to the Anthem Data Breach settlement terms, which requires Anthem to spend tens of millions of dollars and subject itself to security audits for years. As a class action attorney, you can bet that one of my major goals is to have Equifax (and hopefully all credit reporting agencies) subjected to external, rigorous security standards. And, as with my other data breach cases, I will fight for my clients tooth and nail (they’ll speak to you, if you are still incredulous).
A key takeaway for consumers for now (& especially for my many Equifax clients) – you are wise to steer clear of websites that Equifax and its competitors direct you to for now.
P.S. Check out Digital River’s site below. Yep – they claim that they are the “Industry Leading (sic) Fraud Prevention.” #Irony