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Crisis Extended: How Experian Made Things Worse
By: Mike Bush
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File it under data breaches, hacking, or maybe even “irony,” but the recent data breach that saw Experian lose the personal information of 15 million consumers (including social security numbers) opened up a new can of worms.

Upon realizing they were breached, Experian offered their own breach remediation solution to customers impacted by the breach.

As you can imagine, this didn’t sit well…with anyone…including the CEO of T-Mobile, whose customers were the sole victims of the breach:
I hear you re: Experian as service protection option. I am moving as fast as possible to get an alternate option in place by tomorrow.
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) October 1, 2015
Before we fire up the Righteous Indignation Machine, let’s actually examine the situation.

What does a company that offers breach remediation services do when they’re breached? To be honest, this answer isn’t as cut and dry as it may seem.

If you select another vendor, you're essentially saying your solution isn’t a good one. However, offering your own service may not be the best path here, either. Experian decided to run with their own solution…presumably in part to say “we stand by our offering — see, we eat our own dog food” and perhaps in part because it was less costly.

I’ve written in the past about how folks who’ve earned their crisis creds tend to wear them like a badge of honor, recounting their particular journeys as though they were some sort of war story. While I can’t prove this to be true, I suspect there was at least one professional communicator in the room when the decision to offer Experian’s breach service who said, “Ya know, this might not go so well.”

He or she has earned a seat at the table of crisis handlers.

So, what was the right solution?

In the data breach remediation space, there are companies like Experian that offer credit monitoring for one of the three credit bureaus. There are also companies that offer solutions that include all three credit bureaus (along with other bells and whistles).

Experian probably should have chosen the latter and messaged around the idea of providing choice for affected parties. It would have been nuanced, but it would have avoided making a really bad situation a whole lot worse.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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