The great Equifax mystery: 17 months later, the stolen data has never been found, and experts are starting to suspect a spy scheme

  • Equifax’s data breach on Sept. 7, 2017, stunned markets and American consumers, but where the data of those 143 million people disappeared to has remained a mystery.
  • CNBC talked to experts, intelligence officials, dark web data “hunters” and Equifax to discover where they expect the data has gone, and what it is being used for.
  • The prevailing theory today is that the data was stolen by a nation-state for spying purposes, not by criminals looking to cash in on stolen identities.

On Sept. 7, 2017, the world heard an alarming announcement from credit ratings giant Equifax: In a brazen cyberattack, somebody had stolen sensitive personal information from more than 140 million people, nearly half the population of the U.S.

It was the consumer data security scandal of the decade. The information included Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, information from credit disputes and other personal details. CEO Richard Smith stepped down under fire. Lawmakers changed credit freeze laws and instilled new regulatory oversight of credit ratings agencies.

Then, something unusual happened. The data disappeared. Completely. CNBC talked to eight experts, including data “hunters” who scour the dark web for stolen information, senior cybersecurity managers, top executives at financial institutions, senior intelligence officials who played a part in the investigation and consultants who helped support it. All of them agreed that a breach happened, and personal information from 143 million people was stolen.

But none of them knows where the data is now. It’s never appeared on any hundreds of underground websites selling stolen information. Security experts haven’t seen the data used in any of the ways they’d expect in a theft like this — not for impersonating victims, not for accessing other websites, nothing.

But as the investigations continue, a consensus is starting to emerge to explain why the data has disappeared from sight. Most experts familiar with the case now believe that the thieves were working for a foreign government and are using the information not for financial gain, but to try to identify and recruit spies.

One data hunter dives in

The missing Equifax data has been a 17-month-long obsession for Jeffrey, a cybersecurity analyst at one of the world’s largest banks. To him, it represents a sort of professional Lost City of Atlantis or Holy Grail.

Jeffrey is not the analyst’s real name. He asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He also asked that his bank remain anonymous, because he’s one of such a narrow pool of a specific type of employee that even the name of his bank could be used to identify him.

Jeffrey is a “hunter” on the bank’s “hunt team,” and his job is searching for data on the dark web or darknet — a set of web sites that can only be accessed with special software that protects the user’s anonymity. The dark web can be used for many purposes, but most prominently serves as the internet’s underground black market, where criminals buy, sell and trade credit card data, personal information and criminal services.

Jeffrey trolls the dark web for stolen personal data that looks like it might be brand new, especially if it looks like it might belong to customers of the bank or its rivals. He is often one of the first to know that another company has been breached, and his team is often among the first to inform the victims that their systems have been breached.

So Jeffrey was surprised when he learned about the Equifax breach at the same time as everybody else, when the company announced it to the world.

Stolen consumer information usually goes up for sale immediately after a company is hacked, he explains. Criminals aim for speed so they can sell the data before a company’s tripwires ever detect it was stolen. The longer they wait, the more likely the victims and the institutions will make changes to render the data useless. This is especially true with credit card numbers, which can quickly be canceled once fraudulent charges start cropping up on them. Or when Social Security numbers — like those stolen in the Equifax breach — start getting flagged for fraud.

READ MORE: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/13/equifax-mystery-where-is-the-data.html

Panic Erupts at Hamilton Performance Because of False Active Shooter Threat

A Friday evening Hamilton performance in San Francisco left three people injured after an attendee suffered a medical emergency that was mistaken for an active shooter situation. Per CNN, a woman experienced a heart attack during the musical’s pivotal scene when Alexander Hamilton is shot by Aaron Burr in a duel, which caused many audience members to “self-evacuate” after believing the woman, who stood up to leave the theater to seek treatment, was actually shot. Panic further spread when someone in the audience yelled “gun!”, prompting the theater’s attendees to stampede outside. Police told CNN that three people were injured and taken to a nearby hospital as a result, with the most serious injury being a broken leg. The woman who suffered from the heart attack was also hospitalized and in critical condition.

In a tweet, the city’s Orpheum Theatre said an attendee “activated the theater’s fire pull station,” which instructed the audience and cast to “follow the life/safety system’s automatic announcement and exit the theater.” However, followup tweets from attendees said they believed the theater failed these supposed safety protocols, with many people likening what happened to “mass chaos” with “absolutely no support and direction” from the staff. In fact, one attendee witnessed “staff hiding themselves” from the pandemonium.

21 Savage Says He Didn’t Mind Barely Being Mentioned at the Grammys While In ICE Detainment

Last weekend, fans felt slighted on 21 Savage’s behalf when the Grammys came and went with barely a mention of the double nominee or his detainment by ICE officials over his immigration status. (Producer Ludwig Göransson was the only person to mention 21 Savage by name, and you might not have even spotted Post Malone’s “Free 21 Savage” shirt, as it was under his jacket.)

Last weekend, fans felt slighted on 21 Savage’s behalf when the Grammys came and went with barely a mention of the double nominee or his detainment by ICE officials over his immigration status. (Producer Ludwig Göransson was the only person to mention 21 Savage by name, and you might not have even spotted Post Malone’s “Free 21 Savage” shirt, as it was under his jacket.) Following his release on bond after nine days in custody, the British-born, Atlanta-raised musician says he honestly wasn’t bothered by the fact most of his peers didn’t offer any verbal support. “Nah, I was stressed about getting out,” he tells the New York Times in a new interview. “The Grammys is the Grammys, but when you in jail, the Grammys is nothing.”

“I don’t care what nobody say — everybody in that building who’s connected to this culture, I was on their mind in some type of way,” 21 Savage continues. “That’s all that mattered. They didn’t have to say it ’cause everybody knew it. It was in the air. All the people that was there, they said the words in other places and that matter just as much. All the big artists was vocal about the situation, so I was appreciative.”

Instead, the rapper, who says he became aware he lacked legal status as a teen, “probably like the age when you start to get your driver’s license,” after overstaying his visa, is focused on staying in the country. “My situation is important ’cause I represent poor black Americans and I represent poor immigrant Americans,” he says. “You gotta think about all the millions of people that ain’t 21 Savage that’s in 21 Savage shoes.” He is currently reportedly waiting for an expedited hearing. Oh, and despite how hard you all went, 21 Savage says he even liked your memes about how British he is. Or, at least, he acknowledges them. “Some of them was funny — I ain’t gonna lie,” he jokes. “I was appreciative of that.

READ MORE: https://www.vulture.com/2019/02/21-savage-didnt-mind-grammys-silence-while-detained-by-ice.html

NYPD Commander Allegedly Told Officers to Shoot 50 Cent ‘on Sight’ at Sporting Event

An NYPD commander at a Brooklyn precinct is currently being investigated after allegedly telling his group of officers to “shoot” 50 Cent “on sight” at a boxing match in the city last spring. Per People, deputy inspector Emmanuel Gonzalez made the alleged remarks to his staff at a roll call before the NYPD-sanctioned sporting event took place, which he tried to pass off as a joke in the moment. However, the rapper became aware of Gonzalez’s comments on Sunday morning after The New York Daily News broke the story, and is considering legal action against the commander as a result. “Mr. Jackson takes this threat very seriously and is consulting with his legal counsel regarding his options going forward,” his spokesman said in a statement. “He is concerned that he was not previously advised of this threat by the NYPD and even more concerned that Gonzalez continues to carry a badge and a gun.”

“This is how I wake up this morning,” 50 Cent added on Twitter. “This guy Emanuel Gonzales is a dirty cop abusing his power. The sad part is this man still has a badge and a gun. I take this threat very seriously and I’m consulting with my legal counsel regarding my options moving forward.” People notes that the duo previously crossed paths within the law. Gonzalez filed an aggravated harassment complaint against 50 Cent last spring, which stemmed from the rapper reportedly making threats against Gonzalez on social media after the commander shut down a popular Brooklyn strip club.

Jussie Smollett Being Investigated As ‘Active Participant’ in His Own Attack

The investigation into the assault on Empire actor Jussie Smollett took another twist on Saturday night. Chicago police apparently now believe Smollett paid two men to stage the attack, according to CNN. Reached for comment about the report, a Chicago police spokesman would only confirm that “the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation.” He added that police have “reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”

On Friday, news broke that two brothers were arrested in connection with the attack, one of whom worked on Empire. Chicago’s ABC7 had reported on Thursday that police believed Smollett staged his attack because he was being written off the show, but police later denied they were treating Smollett as a suspect, and 20th Century Fox denied that Smollett was being written off.

According to Deadline, the two men were released at 9 p.m. on Friday after being held for 48 hours. A law enforcement source also told the publication that “the new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident.”

Cardi B’s ‘Thotiana Remix’ Verse Is NSFW, Which Is Perfect Because You’re Off Work Monday

Your boss is going to have to be disgruntled about something else this four-day week, because you’re off work Monday for President’s Day and free to blast Cardi B’s extra-filthy “Thotiana Remix” verse as loud as your neighbors can stand it. The Cardi-fied version of the song comes complete with a new video dropped this weekend, which, of course, features rapper Blueface and a car that gained the power of flight once it heard this verse. Wait a minute. If you’re off work, your kids are also probably off school tomorrow. Will the world never allow you to a moment’s peace to enjoy the things you love?!?!

Listen to ‘Please Me,’ Bruno Mars and Cardi B’s New Colla

Cardi B and Bruno Mars are back with another throwback collaboration. This time, “Please Me” hearkens to the R&B fuck jams of the mid-90s. Think “Red Light Special” at a more athletic tempo. Cardi temporarily deleted her Instagram after her Grammy win, but she’s back to do promo for the new single. “Ok so I’m back from retirement to announce I have a brand new song coming out Friday at midnight with @brunomars,” she wrote on Instagram. The cover art for the new single features Cardi in a purple leather fringe jacket to make Prince jealous. Bruno Mars is more understated in a teal button-down. It’s Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran all over again, no?

What Do You Do When You Smoke Weed?

Right now, weed exists in an in-between state. It’s not quite legal, but it’s not quite illegal either. It’s accepted, but not totally normalized. It’s not quite medicine and it’s not quite a beer and it’s not quite green juice, either. Whether the police treat it as a big deal or not depends on who you are and where you live.

It’s all in flux, so it’s tricky to know the right way to talk about it — but that’s also why, on this week’s show, we wanted to try. We started with a very basic question. What do you do when you get high?

Molly: Do you like to go out into the world high or do you primarily like to be at home?

Allison: Be at home. Surrounded by all my comforts.

Molly: Are there comforts that are particularly beloved to you while you are high?

Allison: Yeah, I like my pillows. Sometimes I’ll just bring all the pillows from my bed and lie on them in the living room.

Molly: Like a little nest.

Allison: Like a little nest. I can’t eat like crunchy stuff when I’m high, because I might get dry mouth. So it’s like ice cream — or, honestly, Swiss Miss pudding is the best thing to eat while high.

Molly: A nice wet sweet.

We heard from Jia Tolentino, Aminatou Sow, Ben Sinclair, and Katja Blichfeld of High Maintenance — and a lot of our listeners. A few of the things they like to do:

  • Watch romantic comedies
  • Do some personal finance work
  • Go to the grocery store
  • Go to hot yoga
  • Go running
  • Marie Kondo the house
  • Line up all my bottles and do my skin-care routine
  • Get deep and dirty with ingrown pubic hairs
  • Masturbate
  • Make art projects
  • Hang out with my 2-year-old
  • Go to the zoo
  • Do gymnastics

Click here to listen to this week’s episode, and subscribe wherever you listen.