It resembles the movie set for a high-tech thriller, complete with a dimly lit conference room full of huge video screens beaming in data about potential threats.
But Equifax’s new Global Fusion Center is quite real.
This is where the credit reporting company has brought its anti-fraud, cybersecurity, physical security and crisis response operations under one roof while it seeks to prevent data breaches like the one that exposed the personal data of nearly 150 million Americans two years ago.
Monday, Equifax CEO Mark Begor gave Gov. Brian Kemp and journalists a tour of the center, which opened in July after the company spent $7.3 million renovating the 14,600-square-foot suburban Alpharetta office building that houses it. In all, the Atlanta-based company is spending $1.25 billion on technology and security over three years, a 50% increase. Since the breach was discovered, Equifax has hired 1,000 additional technology and security workers in Georgia.
"We think those investments are going to make Equifax immensely safe," Begor said. "We also set a bar when I joined in April of 2018 that we didn't want to be just good or better in security, we want to be an industry leader in security, which from our perspective is a very high bar and one that we are planning to live by."
The largest of the three major credit agencies, Equifax collects and sells access to personal data on millions of Americans. It has 11,000 employees worldwide. The May 13, 2017 electronic attack on the company exposed Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, credit card numbers and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers.
It wasn’t discovered for months and not revealed to the public until weeks later, in September of that year.
Those revelations drew outrage from consumer groups. Congressional hearings were held, and a number of top executives — including then-CEO Rick Smith — took early retirement. Several other lower-level executives were charged with insider trading for stock trades made before the breach was publicly revealed.
In July, Equifax announced it had reached a $700 million-plus settlement with the government that, pending court approval, would mean an end to legal action stemming from the breach. The deal — hammered out with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office, federal regulators and plaintiffs’ attorneys — calls for the company to create a consumer restitution fund of up to $425 million, to pay $290.5 million to state and federal regulators and to cover millions of dollars in lawyers’ fees assessed in the many lawsuits filed. It also agreed to overhaul its cyber-security policies.
The proposed settlement is still pending in court, Begor said. As he and Kemp cut a ceremonial ribbon at the new center’s grand opening Monday, Begor pointed out that Equifax celebrated its 120-year anniversary in Georgia this year.
“This is a great project, right up our alley. Innovation. High-tech. Good-paying jobs,” Kemp responded. “We just appreciate you all continuing to stay in Georgia for the next 120 years.”