Millions of Mortgage Records Leaked Online
Over 24 million financial and banking documents related to loans and mortgages was found online on an unsecured web server. A TechCrunch report stated that mortgage documents dating back to 2008 were found online, with no security in place, leaving them open for anyone to download. The data includes tax documents, social security numbers, mortgages, repayment schedules as well as other mortgage related paperwork.
The leaked mortgage data was from major financial and lending institutions including now defunct CitiFinancial, HSBC Life Insurance, Wells Fargo, CapitalOne, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD is affected by the government shutdown.
The mortgage database was exposed online for two weeks and was found by cyber security researcher Bob Diachenko. TechCrunch helped track down the owner of the data. The database was taken down on January 15.
The leaked documents contained sensitive personal data such as names, mailing addresses, dates of birth, credit histories, W-2 tax forms, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, and bank account numbers. Mortgage loan details were also part of the exposed data. The exposed financial data would allow identity theft hackers to file false tax returns, open up credit cards, or take out a loan in someone else’s name.
The data leak was traced to a company called Ascension, a data and analytics company. Sandy Campbell, general counsel at Ascension’s parent company, Rocktop Partners, confirmed the security incident to TechCrunch and confirmed that their systems were unaffected. Campbell confirmed to TechCrunch that the company will inform all affected customers and report the incident to state regulators.
Who is Ascension?
Ascension is a Fort Worth, Texas company that provides data analysis and portfolio valuations for the financial industry. As part of its services, Ascension scans paperwork and converts them using optical character recognition into digital files that can be stored and read by computers.
“On January 15, this vendor learned of a server configuration error that may have led to the exposure of some mortgage-related documents,” Campbell stated. “The vendor [Ascension] immediately shut down the server in question, and we are working with third-party forensics experts to investigate the situation. We are also in regular contact with law enforcement investigators and technology partners as this investigation proceeds.”
According to the TechCrunch post, Citi stated that they had no connection to Ascension. A Citi spokesperson said that “Citi recently became aware that a third party, with no connection to Citi, was storing certain mortgage origination and modification documents in an unsecured online environment.” They went on to say that “These documents contained information about current or former Citi customers, as well as customers from other financial institutions. Citi notified law enforcement, initiated a thorough forensic investigation and worked quickly to ensure the information could no longer be publicly accessed.”
Citi is attempting to identify customers affected by the data leak.
A Wells Fargo spokesperson said the data was obtained by Ascension from other entities that purchased Wells Fargo mortgages. HSBC stated that it had “no vendor relationship with Ascension since 2010.”