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Equifax data leak may affect up to nearly half the US population

Hackers have stolen Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, credit card info and more from potentially up to 143 million people.

James Martin/CNET

Hackers have hit a treasure trove of financial data from potentially up to 143 million people in the US.

Equifax, a credit reporting firm, said Thursday that it was hacked from mid-May to July, with thieves stealing names, Social Security numbers, birthdates and addresses from its customers.

The US population is 323 million people, according to the US Census Bureau. This would mean that nearly half the country is at risk for having their personal data leaked from the Equifax breach. 

You can check if your data was leaked by heading to Equifax's website

"This is clearly a disappointing event, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I deeply regret this incident," Rick Smith, Equifax's CEO, said in a video released Thursday.

The company learned about the breach on July 29, and announced it more than a month later. About 209,000 people have had their credit card numbers stolen, while hackers also stole documents with personal information on 182,000 victims, Equifax said in a statement to its investors.   

People in the United Kingdom and Canada have also been affected by the breach, the company said. It has since stopped the breach, and is still investigating who is behind the break-in.

"Criminals exploited a US website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files," Equifax said in its statement. The company is working with law enforcement on the investigation.

Equifax said it's offering free identity theft protection and credit monitoring for its customers for the next year.  The company didn't respond to requests for comment. 

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