Capital One target of massive data breach
By GENE JOHNSON Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — A hacker gained access to personal information from more than 100 million Capital One credit applications, the bank said Monday as federal authorities arrested a suspect in the case .
Paige A. Thompson — who also goes by the handle “erratic” — was charged with a single count of computer fraud and abuse in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Thompson made an initial appearance in court and was ordered to remain in custody pending a detention hearing Thursday.
The hacker got information including credit scores and balances plus the Social Security numbers of about 140,000 customers, the bank said. It will offer free credit monitoring services to those affected.
The FBI raided Thompson’s residence Monday and seized digital devices. An initial search turned up files that referenced Capital One and “other entities that may have been targets of attempted or actual network intrusions.”
A public defender appointed to represent Thompson did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Capital One, based in McLean, Virginia, said Monday it found out about the vulnerability in its system July 19 and immediately sought help from law enforcement to catch the perpetrator.
According to the FBI complaint, someone emailed the bank two days before that notifying it that leaked data had appeared on the code-hosting site GitHub, which is owned by Microsoft.
And a month before that, the FBI said, a Twitter user who went by “erratic” sent another user direct messages warning about distributing the bank’s data, including names, birthdates and Social Security numbers. That user later reported the message to Capital One.
“Ive basically strapped myself with a bomb vest, (expletive) dropping capitol ones dox and admitting it,” one said. “I wanna distribute those buckets i think first.”
Capital One said it believes it is unlikely that the information was used for fraud, but it will continue to investigate. The data breach affected about 100 million people in the U.S. and 6 million in Canada.
The bank said the bulk of the hacked data consisted of information supplied by consumers and small businesses who applied for credit cards between 2005 and early 2019. In addition to data such as phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth and self-reported income, the hacker was also able to access credit scores, credit limits and balances, as well as fragments of transaction information from a total of 23 days in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
“While I am grateful that the perpetrator has been caught, I am deeply sorry for what has happened,” said Capital One CEO Richard D. Fairbank. “I sincerely apologize for the understandable worry this incident must be causing those affected and I am committed to making it right.”
Capital One Financial Corp., the nation’s seventh-largest commercial bank with $373.6 billion in assets as of June 30, is the latest U.S. company to suffer a major data breach in recent years.
In 2017, a data breach at Equifax, one of the major credit reporting companies, exposed the Social Security numbers and other sensitive information of roughly half of the U.S. population.
Last week, Equifax agreed to pay at least $700 million to settle lawsuits over the breach in a settlement with federal authorities and states. The agreement includes up to $425 million in monetary relief to consumers.
Many major banks have sought to stem the risk of data breaches in recent years. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank began replacing customers’ debit cards several years ago with more secure chip-based cards. While the cards with chips are common these days, many merchants still rely on the older, less secure card-swiping equipment. Credit card companies have also beefed up fraud monitoring in the wake of high-profile data breaches that hit retailers such as Target and Home Depot.
The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. last year was just under $8 million, according to a study by IBM Security and Ponemon Institute.
This story has been corrected to show Twitter messages were sent to a third party, not directly to Capital One.
Associated Press reporter Alex Veiga in Los Angeles contributed to this article.