News Brief: Mexico Earthquake, Florida Evacuates, Equifax Data Breach
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We're covering a couple natural disasters on this morning. Let's begin with this powerful earthquake that toppled houses and damaged schools and hospitals in the south of Mexico.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
And you say powerful. It had a magnitude of 8.1. It hit off the coast of Chiapas state, down near Guatemala. Carlos Abraham livestreamed the earthquake from his home.
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CARLOS ABRAHAM: (Speaking Spanish).
KELLY: The quakes also triggered a tsunami warning. And in Mexico City, which is 650 miles away from the epicenter, people ran into the streets as buildings were swaying.
GREENE: And I think we have someone on the line who experienced that. It's reporter Emily Green, who is in Mexico City.
Hi there, Emily.
EMILY GREEN, BYLINE: Hey there.
GREENE: So what did this feel like? And where exactly were you when this happened?
GREEN: So I was walking down the street and I heard this blast, this kind of horn. And the friend I was with said to me - oh, that's a earthquake warning. And I thought, that's weird. It sounds like the horn of a truck. But sure enough, within a minute - and I think even less than that - the street started to sway. And it was sort of busy. I wasn't - it was very disconcerting and kind of disorienting. And everybody ran out into the street. And at that moment, I happened to be inside of a strip club, and so I saw all of these beautiful women, dressed to the nines, and the men they were with all kind of come out. And it was a sort of surreal moment because you saw these fancy women who were both...
GREENE: People dressed to be in a strip club were running out on the street because they were feeling this. Is that what you just said?
GREEN: Yes, exactly - and looking scared, yeah.
GREENE: My goodness. Well, I - we should say that, I mean, you were hundreds of miles away, feeling all this, from the actual epicenter of this quake, which speaks to the power of this thing. What is - where was the epicenter? What is that region like?
GREEN: So the epicenter was in Chiapas, the state of Chiapas, which is near the Guatemalan border. And Chiapas is a poor state. It's known maybe (unintelligible) as the home of the Zapatistas. And it's pretty poor. And I don't know much beyond that except to say that it's not at all close to Mexico City. And if there's any damage done there, it's going to take some time to repair.
GREENE: All right. And we'll be having to wait some time maybe to hear about the death toll and how much damage. Reporter Emily Green, speaking to us from Mexico City about that overnight, very powerful earthquake. Emily, thanks for the time.
GREEN: Thank you.
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GREENE: OK. Let's turn now to Florida, where preparations are underway for the worst as Hurricane Irma is closing in. And according to the forecast, it's looking more and more likely like the worst is exactly what the storm could bring.
KELLY: That is true. Irma is already ripping through the Caribbean. It has just devastated some small islands there, knocking out power for millions of people in Puerto Rico. And new forecasts show Irma is larger - it's actually broader than the entire state of Florida itself.
GREENE: Which is amazing.
KELLY: It is amazing. There are a million people in Florida under evacuation orders. Some say they're still planning to stay. One of them is Pricella Santana. She's the wife of a Miami police officer assigned to work through the storm.
PRICELLA SANTANA: Not knowing, I guess is what has us worried, you know, 'cause we don't know what's going to happen. It's a hurricane. You can't underestimate them. They're unpredictable.
KELLY: And talking about official predictions, we do have a little update this morning. It's a tiny piece of good news. Irma has been downgraded from Category 4 - from Category 5. It's now a Category 4 storm.
GREENE: But still a very powerful storm...
KELLY: That's right.
GREENE: And someone who is no stranger to hurricanes, NPR's Miami-based correspondent Greg Allen is on the line.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: So what's the latest on Irma in terms of path, in terms of timing of this?
ALLEN: Well, yeah, a Category 4 still sounds pretty bad, doesn't it? And we've got winds - 155 miles per hour, the maximum winds. So it has the capacity to do a lot of damage. And as you mentioned, the size of this is such a concern. It's got the entire lower half of the state under a hurricane warning now, which means all of Florida, the southern half, in the next few days, is going to feel hurricane effects.
The storm is on this northwesterly path. It's going to turn late Saturday. And models are kind of coming together now that it looks like it's definitely going to almost definitely going to come over the peninsula, centering more over the east coast. But we'll see, you know. These things can change at the last minute. They think it's going to stay at a Category 4 till landfall. But all these things can change, as we've all seen in the past. But we'll start feeling the effects of that storm by late Saturday night. I think...
GREENE: Yeah, you're getting ready for it. It's like - you know, the question of whether to evacuate - that came into such sharp focus with Harvey and the city of Houston. What are Florida officials doing in terms of where to evacuate and how many people?
ALLEN: Well, I've never seen an evacuation this large here before. It's been - you know, in Miami-Dade County alone, it's 700,000 people, mandatory. And many more people - I won't say more people than that left, but other people from other areas have - leaving as well - that's led to this big traffic jam along I-95 and the other interstates coming - going out of Florida. A one-hour trip is taking five hours, that kind of thing, is not unusual. Exacerbating that is this fuel shortage, which has been severe, really, when it comes down to it. I've seen one report saying that one out of four gas station in Florida was out of gas.
GREENE: One out of four...
GREENE: ...In the state.
ALLEN: Yeah. And they're still bringing in - the tankers are unloading at the ports in Tampa and in Fort Lauderdale and bringing in oil. But they just can't keep up. So it's been tough. The evacuation continues - go all the way up to Georgia now. Some evacuations have been ordered there. So it's shut down the state. The governor has ordered all the schools shut down. Florida and Florida State have cancelled their games to keep people off the roads. So it's big.
GREENE: And there's some concern about power outages with a storm this severe, potentially, and how long they might last.
ALLEN: Right. We've gotten advance word from Florida Power & Light to get ready for it. I saw an estimate from some researchers from the University of Michigan, Ohio State University and Texas A&M saying that 3.4 million people in Florida are likely to lose - customers are likely lose power in Irma. So we're talking about millions here. Florida Power & Light says that we should - could have outages for weeks or months. So that's the big concern.
ALLEN: They've got 11,000 workers here, though, ready to go to work to restore.
GREENE: All right, NPR's Greg Allen getting ready for Irma to arrive, talking from Miami.
ALLEN: You're welcome.
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GREENE: So if you have ever gotten a credit report - and I know there are a lot of you out there who have - you probably should listen to this.
KELLY: Yeah, let me pivot us from massive natural disasters to a massive security breach.
KELLY: This one is at the credit monitoring company Equifax. We are talking as many as 143 million people who may have had their personal information exposed, things like Social Security numbers, birthdates, home addresses. The CEO of Equifax, Rick Smith, has issued an apology.
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RICK SMITH: We all know that the threats to data security are growing by the day. And while we've made significant investments in cybersecurity, we have more to do, and we will.
KELLY: Equifax says it discovered the breach in late July and acted immediately to shut it down. But of course, by then, all of those home addresses and Social Security numbers - all of that was already out there.
GREENE: And John Mannes has been looking into exactly what this means. He writes for the website TechCrunch.
Hey there, John.
JOHN MANNES: Hey. How's it going?
GREENE: Pretty good, unless you're someone who might have been hacked here. This sounds - I mean, this is a huge deal.
MANNES: Huge, huge, incredibly large situation going on here. Now, it's not the largest hack we have ever seen in the country. That of course goes to the two Yahoo breaches from last year. But we're still talking about Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, driver licenses for millions and millions of Americans and some abroad as well.
GREENE: What exactly is the company saying happened here?
MANNES: So they're still looking into it. I think folks are not really willing to speculate too much on exactly who might have caused this or what group might have been at play. But the company has taken some steps. Of course, you mentioned the apology. In addition to that, they've also decided to offer a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance, which of course, you know, might be comforting to some but probably not to many others.
And we spent a little bit of time digging into some of this - some of that offering initially. And unfortunately, we found that it seems a bit botched. And we actually ended up calling the line that they sent us three times and were unable to connect with anybody. Our calls dropped off. They also are, if you visit the actual website that they sent along for the Trusted ID credit monitoring, you're actually unable to get a straight answer as to whether or not any of your information was actually compromised. So...
GREENE: That does not sound exactly helpful.
MANNES: ...Not super comforting on that front.
GREENE: Yeah, not exactly helpful in this moment. Well, besides calling these numbers - and hopefully that will work out at some point - what else are they advising people to do who might be worried about this?
MANNES: So set up two-factor authentication. Assume all of your information has been compromised. Beware of phishing attacks. Folks whose credit cards were compromised will definitely need to get new ones. And absolutely keep a close eye on your finances. Anything that looks suspicious at this point in time, you should definitely look into and do your proper due diligence.
GREENE: Wow - advice that applies not just to a few hundred or a few thousand people but millions and millions of Americans who may have been affected by this. John Mannes writes about all things tech related for the website TechCrunch.
MANNES: Thank you. Pleasure.
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