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The Equifax breach aftermath could cause all investors to ask tough new questions

The recent massive security breach at credit reporting company Equifax, which could impact 143 million consumers in the U.S., may have wide-reaching implications for investors' attitudes toward cybersecurity in public companies going forward.

The breach was revealed last week along with the revelation that three Equifax officials, including its chief financial officer, sold nearly $2 million of the company's shares in the days after the breach was discovered in late July.

While the company said in a statement that the executives had no knowledge of the attack at the time they sold their shares, questions have been raised around the timing of the sales.

Some of consumers' most important personal information may have been stolen, said Max Wolff, chief economist at Disruptive Technology Advisers, adding that the breach, along with the executives' share sales being revealed in regulatory filings, will impact how investors feel about "cybersecurity, data ... and it's going to unfortunately set some new records in terms of fines and fallout" as well as influence how investors think about corporate governance.

"We watched the company here, in this particular case, spend about two months getting ready to share the information that they had lost this data," as well as the news of executives selling shares before the announcement, Wolff said.

He added: "I think investors are going to ask another basic question when they own or praise the ownership of a public company ... they're going to have to ask what the cyber-vulnerabilities are. And they're going to have to know that there's a good set of policies in place to prevent, and to respond to, these type of attacks."

Wolff said Tuesday on CNBC's "Trading Nation" that he expects further upside for some cybersecurity companies like FireEye and Symantec (parent company of Norton and LifeLock privacy software), which both saw their shares rise after the Equifax breach news.

On Tuesday, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D.-N.D., who sits on the Senate Banking Committee, said at a credit union industry conference in Washington that "somebody needs to go to jail" if in fact Equifax executives were aware of the company's breach at the time of the share sales.

"It's a problem when people can act with impunity with no consequences. How is that not insider trading?" she said.

Shares of Equifax have fallen nearly 18 percent over the course of the past week.

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Brian Sullivan

Brian Sullivan is co-anchor of CNBC's "Power Lunch" (M-F,1PM-3PM ET), one of the network's longest running programs, as well as the host of the daily investing program "Trading Nation." He is also a frequent guest on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and other NBC properties.

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