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Equifax says cyber attack may have hit 143 million customers

(Bloomberg) -- Equifax Inc. said its systems were struck by a cybersecurity incident that may have affected about 143 million U.S. consumers, shedding light on what could be ranked as one of the largest breaches in history.

Intruders accessed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers, Equifax said in a statement. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 consumers were also accessed, the company said. Equifax shares dropped more than five percent in after-hours trading.

"This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes," Chief Executive Officer Richard Smith said in the statement.

Data center wires
Rows of coloured co-ax cables are seen feeding into computer servers inside a comms room at an office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. Vodafone Group Plc will ask telecommunications regulator Ofcom to guarantee that U.K. wireless carriers, which rely on BTs fiber network to transmit voice and data traffic across the country, are treated fairly when BT sets prices and connects their broadcasting towers. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Criminals took advantage of a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to files during a period stretching from mid-May through July of this year. The intruders accessed credit card information for about 209,000 consumers and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 consumers, Equifax said.

Some U.K. and Canadian residents were also affected. The company is working with regulators in both countries. It uncovered the breach on July 29.

The incident ranks among the largest cybersecurity breaches in history.