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Capital One Data Breach Exposes Over 100 Million Customers


Federal authorities charged a Seattle area tech worker with hacking Capital One, accessing millions of people's personal information. NPR's Martin Kaste reports.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Assistant U.S. attorney Steven Masada says this data breach was discovered because the hacker couldn't keep quiet.

STEVEN MASADA: Sometimes bravado is what gets them caught.

KASTE: Masada says Paige A. Thompson, a woman he describes as a tech worker with special skills, found a way to trick Capital One computers into sharing confidential customer information. He says she stored some of the stolen data on a software developer site called GitHub and talked about her achievement online.

MASADA: Her statements, you know, bragging to others, potentially like-minded people, is what got her - drew attention to her from others, which ultimately got her reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

KASTE: The bank says the breach affected more than 100 million customers, releasing dates of birth, addresses and income, information from people's credit card applications. The bank says more sensitive information was encrypted, and relatively few Social Security numbers got out - only about 140,000. Though, Canadian customers appeared to be more exposed. The bank says about 1 million of them had their social insurance numbers compromised.

So far, though, assistant U.S. attorney Masada says there's no evidence that any of this has been used for other crimes.

MASADA: We don't have any information that Ms. Thompson used or monetized the data in any way.

KASTE: But Masada says the case has taken an unexpected turn. When agents served a search warrant on the alleged hacker's home yesterday, they say they stumbled across a separate crime involving the alleged hacker's landlord and roommate, a man named Park Quan.

MASADA: Mr. Quan actually had a small arsenal of firearms in his bedroom, approximately 20 weapons ranging from handguns to assault-type rifles.

KASTE: Masada says as a convicted felon, Quan is not allowed to own weapons. And investigators say he even had bumps stocks, which have been illegal under federal regulations since earlier this year. Martin Kaste, NPR News, Seattle.

INSKEEP: And we should note, Capital One is an NPR financial contributor.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.

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