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New Equifax CEO offers 'total apology,' free lifetime control

After a data breach that affected some 143 million U.S. consumers and a series of missteps in the aftermath, Equifax has named a new interim CEO: Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr. In an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal, Barros said he wanted to express his "sincere and total apology" that the credit reporting agency had failed to live up to expectations.

He also announced that Equifax will offer a new credit monitoring tool in the future, which should be available by Jan. 31, 2018. According to NPR, Barros wrote that "the service we are developing will let consumers easily lock and unlock access to their Equifax credit files. You will be able to do this at will. It will be reliable, safe and simple. Most significantly, the service will be offered free, for life."

The service is meant as a response to what has been a highly embarrassing incident for the company. It is also meant to ease consumers' worries and to disrupt cyber crime.

Since the breach, Equifax has been hit with dozens of lawsuits -- and not just from disgruntled consumers. Shareholders, financial institutions and now the City of Chicago have filed suit.

Barros was named interim CEO after Equifax's former chairman and CEO announced his retirement. The company has been criticized for its handling of the massive data breach, which frustrated consumers. The consumer credit reporting agency waited over a month before alerting the public of the breach. Moreover, three executives sold stock before the breach was publicly announced. Most disturbing, Equifax's Twitter account directed customers to a phishing scam rather than its own secure site.

Some issues continue to persist. The site the company set up to update consumers on issues surrounding the breach began displaying a warning yesterday that it was experiencing "difficulties with our TrustedID website" and might be periodically unavailable.

Although the breach has led to numerous state and federal inquiries, some analysts have asked whether the entire credit reporting industry should be reevaluated.

"They collect all this information, they don't ask your permission, and then if the information gets messed up, it can be very, very hard to get it corrected," said NPR's Chris Arnold.

Equifax shareholders and consumers are not the only ones affected by the breach, of course. Companies that rely on credit reports to make lending and other financial decisions may soon be facing a deluge of fraudulent requests for credit. In the longer term, organizations that use credit reports for a variety of decisions may also find themselves in doubt over the veracity of those reports.

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