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Mnuchin: Avoiding another Equifax-like breach is not something corporations can do alone

Key Points
  • "I think public/private partnerships on cyber is critical," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday.
  • "I'm concerned about the global financial system," he added.
  • His comments come after credit service company Equifax said last Thursday a data breach could potentially affect 143 million consumers in the United States.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speaking at the 2017 Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Sept. 12, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday emphasized the need to protect Americans' personal data, saying cybersecurity is "a big focus" for him.

Mnuchin was asked about the Equifax data breach potentially affecting 143 million consumers, an event he deemed "quite unfortunate."

"I think public/private partnerships on cyber is critical, as this is not something that the private sector can do alone and it's not something the government can do alone," Mnuchin said at the Delivering Alpha conference, presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor.

Mnuchin deflected a question about whether American corporations should be liable for leaks like that of Equifax. "It's complicated," he said. Mnuchin also declined to comment further on the Equifax situation specifically.

"Our No. 1 concern is making sure that the data is safe and we are working with the industry," Mnuchin said.

"I'm concerned about the global financial system and keeping it protected," he added. "I can assure you that we are working with all of the intelligence agencies on cyber issues to keep Americans safe."

Equifax said it discovered the breach on July 29. "Criminals exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files," the company said.

The company said the exposed data include names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses and some driver's license numbers, all of which Equifax aims to protect for its customers.