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The potential consequences of mass hacking for Equifax

It's like credit-reporting company Equifax just strode right to the front of the class recently, declining involvement in lesser so-called "cyberattacks" and opting for professed vulnerability in a security breach of consumer records deemed by one national report as "one of the largest in U.S. history."

That of course begs this obvious question: How big was the hack that recently exposed the confidential information -- including Social Security numbers -- of Americans from one end of the country to the other?

The number 143 million is being bandied about.

The implications of that are simply staggering, with the record compromising already having been referred to by one media source as the cyberbreach "that compromised personal data for nearly half the nation's population."

That depiction has got to make Equifax principals wince, especially given that the consumer complaints already rolling in seem to be escalating exponentially.

That clearly spells trouble on the litigation horizon, with media reports across the country speculating on the hit -- how soon, how big, how potentially devastating to business operations -- that Equifax might take in trial outcomes or through settlements with consumers who sufficiently demonstrate personal harm suffered from the company's security glitch.

"So far, the alleged injury is vague, very indefinite for most people," one legal commentator notes.

But it must also be noted that, as time passes and cyber thieves make broader use of data stolen from scores of millions of people, the number of plaintiffs with realistic expectations of money recoveries will increase, perhaps dramatically.

It's likely that the upcoming holiday season won't be particularly cheery for Equifax.

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