Equifax — a credit monitoring company — announced that it was hacked, exposing the Social Security numbers and sensitive information of about 143 million Americans.

That’s about half of America, according to CBS News.

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

This breach will force millions of Americans to become even more diligent in protecting their identity, given that Equifax is a major credit monitoring firm.

Here’s what you need to know about the breach:

– Equifax said that “criminals” exploited a website application to access files earlier this year (May to July). Among the data compromised were Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, birth date, credit card numbers and addresses.

– The hack was discovered July 29, but Equifax waited until this week to announce the development.

– You can visit this established website to find out whether your personal information has been stolen.  You can also call 866-447-7559 for more information. But some experts warn that signing up to Equifax’s help website might strip away your rights. According to the Washington Post: “Buried in the terms of service is language that bars those who enroll in the Equifax checker program from participating in any class-action lawsuits that may arise from the incident.” For more information on the pros and cons of using the company’s help site, click here.

– While this isn’t the largest breach in history, it is one of the most sensitive. Last year, Yahoo’s data breach was considered to be one of the biggest — it affected one billion users. But the Equifax hack exposed Social Security numbers, something not included in the Yahoo incident.

– While you might not see a change in your credit report immediately, hackers can still use the information for years to come. To protect yourself, you can follow a few easy steps: check your banking activity and report weekly, use two-factor identification for websites you have to log personal information into and sign up for a credit monitoring system.

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