Equifax says systems not compromised in latest cyber scare

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Equifax Inc said on Thursday that one of its third-party vendors had been running malicious code on one its web pages, but that the credit reporting agency was not the subject of another cyber attack and its systems were not compromised.

Equifax had said earlier it took the affected web page offline “out of an abundance of caution” following a report by the technology news website Ars Technica that the company’s website may have been hacked.

Atlanta-based Equifax disclosed a little over a month ago that cyber criminals had breached its systems between mid-May and late July and stolen the sensitive information of 145.5 million people.

“Equifax can confirm that its systems were not compromised and that the reported issue did not affect our consumer online dispute portal,” spokeswoman Francesca De Girolami said in a statement on Thursday.

“The issue involves a third-party vendor that Equifax uses to collect website performance data, and that vendor’s code running on an Equifax website was serving malicious content.”

The company said it has removed the vendor’s code from the web page, which was taken offline so the company can conduct further analysis.

FILE PHOTO: The logo and trading information for Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. are displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Randy Abrams, an independent security analyst, said he noticed the issue late on Wednesday when he was attempting to check some information in his credit report and a bogus pop-up ad appeared on Equifax’s website.

The pop-ups could trick visitors into installing fraudulent Adobe Flash updates and infect computers with malware, he said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he recalled thinking when he first saw the ads. Then he successfully replicated the problem at least five times, making a video that he posted to YouTube. (bit.ly/2z3GTLc)

Equifax’s security protocols have been under scrutiny since Sept. 7 when the company disclosed its systems had been breached. As a credit reporting agency, Equifax keeps vast amounts of consumer data for banks and other creditors to use to determine the chances of their customers’ defaulting.

The breach has prompted investigations by multiple federal and state agencies, including a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice, and it has led to the departure of the company’s chief executive officer, chief information officer and chief security officer.

Equifax shares ended down 1.5 percent at $ 108.81.

Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Bill Rigby

Tech

Cisco Systems: Bulls, Here It Comes

Cisco Systems (CSCO) has been caught in a long-term trading range ever since the dot-com bubble burst, and those long the stock have had few had few benefits for their positions with the exception of the stock’s strong dividend yields. But all of this looks ready to change, as short interest in CSCO has been waning for the past 18 months and market valuations are now pushing through critical levels on the monthly price history. Changes at the managerial levels, recent beats in quarterly earnings, and emerging revenue drivers all point in the positively direction in a confluence of events that should bring rewards for bulls that have been holding the stock for a long period of time. In our view, CSCO is on the verge of a major breakout that will define the bullish trajectory from here on a multi-year basis. There is still time to get long the stock, as market valuations have not yet broken above the critical 33.80 level we will discuss here.

In the long-term view shown above, we can see that CSCO has had an interesting price history over the last 25 years. A period of indecision has followed the initial rise-and-collapse and this has created a very strong trading range between 13.95 and 33.80. More recently, markets have been pressuring the top areas of this zone — and this activity has been further supported by a stable earnings performance that has beaten expectations in the last few quarters. In addition to this, the company is showing healthy margin figures while the stock is trading with an attractive 17 PE and a 3.55% dividend yield. This is well above the industry average, and so if you are a dividend investor looking for tech exposure you could do a lot worse than entering into a new position in CSCO at current levels.

Screenshot 2017-09-21 at 4.10.35 PM.png

Analyst recommendations: Yahoo Finance

The bullish sentiment is reflected in the analyst surveys, with the census showing “buys” or “strong buys” for the stock even while it is trading at these relatively elevated levels. The real question here is whether or not the company will be able to breath life into what is viewed by many as an outdated tech entity and so it will be important for investors to identify areas that might boost revenue performances in the next few quarters.

Screenshot 2017-09-21 at 4.12.28 PM.png

The action here could be guided by the contrasts, as the latest earnings report showed that revenues were down year-on-year. This has been the case for seven straight quarters, but the results were mostly inline with the estimates. In the report, CSCO did surpass the consensus earnings estimates once again (at 61 cents in earnings per share). This type of performance has been par for the course since Chuck Robbins took the helm as CEO, and so there is something here for investors to grab onto in terms of the long-term outlook for CSCO’s quarterly performance outlook.

Screenshot 2017-09-20 at 3.46.15 PM.png

Helping matters here will be the significant decline that is now being seen in the US dollar. Relative to its most commonly traded assets, the greenback has lost roughly 9.8% and this will almost certainly lead to upside surprises in CSCO’s earnings performances for the second half of 2017. This is one market element that has come as a significant surprise for most analysts, as the pro-growth policy agenda promoted by US President Donald Trump has had difficulty gaining traction. This has hurt the US Dollar but is something that will come as a significant benefit to companies with significant overseas sales totals. Information technology falls behind only energy in terms of the sectors that stand to benefit from these trends, so bullish investors should expect upside earnings surprises in the next few releases.

CSCO Chart Analysis: Dividend Investments.com

As one of the few true survivors of the dot-com bubble, Cisco Systems has proven itself as a stable investment that is capable of withstanding selling pressure. With a price-to-book value of just over two, the company still looks well-positioned and undervalued. The key area to watch here is the range resistance that is now found at 33.80, as a break here would suggest that a new sheriff is in town and that the sideways sluggishness is over. Bullish readings in the Commodity Channel Index strongly support this upside outlook as there now appears to be very little selling pressure left in the market (with short interest at 0.91% of the total float). The stock’s 3.55% dividend yield is well above the industry average (of 1.39%) and the payout ratios are still seen at sustainable levels. On balance, this points to strong upside in the stock, so we will remain long and collect the attractive dividends associated with this tech superstar.

What is your position on Cisco Systems? We look forward to reading your comments. Stay tuned to Dividend Investors and receive our next alerts by clicking the “Follow” button at the top of the page.

Disclosure: I am/we are long CSCO.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Tech

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