The Sept. 7, 2017, announcement of a class-action lawsuit against credit reporting company Equifax after its recent massive data breach is a game-changer that likely will open the door to thousands more lawsuits in similar situations, says John Shegerian, founder and executive chairman of Fresno, California-based ERI, a leading recycler of electronic waste in the U.S. and the world’s largest IT asset disposition (ITAD) and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company.
Victims of the Equifax breach, one of the largest in U.S. history, have filed a multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit in response to the announcement that hackers had stolen Social Security numbers and other personal information belonging to millions of people, leaving them potentially vulnerable to identity theft and fraud, Shegerian explains.
He says the data breach is among the worst in history because of the number of people affected and the sensitive types of information exposed. As many as 143 million people in the United States were hit. Others in the U.K. and Canada also were impacted. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 U.S. customers were compromised, in addition to personal identifying information on about 182,000 U.S. customers.
The class-action complaint claims that the lawsuit could have cost implications of $68.6 billion.
“This lawsuit surrounding the Equifax data breach comes at a time when hackers have become more sophisticated and data is simply not being protected well enough,” says Shegerian. “It’s truly the tip of the iceberg and it’s very likely that thousands more lawsuits will be filed as more and more of these data breaches happen. A big part of the problem that is not being properly addressed is hardware mismanagement.”
The class-action suit also follows on the heels of August’s federal appeals decision in Washington for Attias v. CareFirst, which ruled that consumers may sue companies that fail to safeguard their personal data.
“Every business in the U.S.—large or small—should pay very close attention to the paradigm shift in data privacy in both the digital and physical realm, and to what lengths businesses are responsible for it,” Shegerian adds. “To avoid being sued in what is sure to be a feeding frenzy of litigation over compromised data, the best thing businesses can do now is to make sure they perform their due diligence protecting the data of their constituent customers, vendors and employees. Properly destroying hardware using a certified organization that permanently eliminates all digital data is now critical.”
Shegerian says ERI currently provides the only “dually certified nationwide solution offering 100 percent guaranteed data destruction for consumer electronics devices, e-waste and hardware.”
ERI is certified to demanufacture and recycle every type of e-waste in an environmentally responsible manner. ERI processes more than 275 million pounds of electronic waste annually at eight locations, serving every zip code in the United States.