– Equifax's new interim chief executive said the company is planning to offer a new lifelong credit freeze service for free by the end of January.

Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., who was named the company's new CEO on Tuesday, announced that move Thursday, along with other efforts to improve its problem-plagued response to a massive data theft affecting 143 million Americans.

"On behalf of Equifax, I want to express my sincere and total apology to every consumer affected by our recent data breach," Barros said in an Op-Ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. "People across the country and around the world, including our friends and family members, put their trust in our company. We didn't live up to expectations."

According to a news report, Barros' Op-Ed was not initially available on Equifax's website on the security breach, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, but the site now has a link to it.

In a move that could put pressure on the other two major credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, to offer similar lifelong freezes, Barros said Equifax plans to offer a free service by Jan. 31 that will "let consumers easily lock and unlock access to their Equifax credit files. You will be able to do this at will."

With the service, he said, "the cybercrime business will become a lot more difficult."

Equifax's efforts come as the Atlanta credit-tracking firm faces a storm surge of investigations, lawsuits and complaints about its handling of the hacking scandal.

Next week, former Equifax CEO Rick Smith is expected to be grilled before Senate and House committees looking into the breach. Some lawmakers are calling for "clawbacks" of Equifax executives' pay. Smith, who retired Tuesday, leaves the company with at least $48.9 million in stock awards and benefits.

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