EDITORIAL | Lifeline is a federal Reagan-era program intended to provide discounted phone service to low-income Americans.
While looking into companies participating in the program, The Scripps News investigative team discovered more than 170,000 records posted online listing sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, home addresses and financial accounts of…
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A month ago, two phone carriers participating in a federal benefit program were alerted that sensitive customer records, including Social Security numbers and bank-account records, were freely posted online.
Tens of thousands of low-income Americans who’d applied for subsidized phone service through the federal Lifeline program were put at heightened risk for identity theft.
At least 26 states had residents who applied for the federal Lifeline phone program and subsequently had personal records available on an unsecured website earlier this spring.
The personal records of more than 170,000 Lifeline customers were posted online.
The story focuses on security breaches for the Lifeline cellphone program. The program is federally funded and provides discount phone service to low-income Americans. The Scripps News investigative team uncovered 170,000 records containing personal information including Lifeline applications and records containing social security numbers, birth dates, social security cards, drivers licenses and food stamp cards. The records span 26 states.
-- Scripps News discovered the records through a simple Google search. They were collected for two Lifeline carriers, Oklahoma City-based TerraCom Inc. and affiliate YourTel America Inc.
-- The phone companies said records of 343 individuals were accessed by unknown parties between March 24 and April 26.
-- The records uncovered by Scripps date back eight months. It’s unclear how TerraCom could fully assess the breach because its 30-day history of website visitors doesn’t cover the entire period when records were publicly available.
-- The FCC forbids carriers from retaining Lifeline applicants’ proof of program eligibility, but the publicly posted TerraCom records include 127,000 such records dating back to September.
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