Reporters Accused of Hacking After Uncovering Confidential Information Posted on the Internet

The information (including Social Security numbers) had reportedly been left publicly available


Investigative reporters for the Scripps news service have been threatened with legal action after informing a telecommunications company that confidential data on tens of thousands of applicants was available on the Internet.

The reporters were said to be looking into companies participating in Lifeline, a federal program that provides discounted phone service for qualified low-income households, when they discovered more than 170,000 records from applicants in at least 26 states tied to Oklahoma City-based TerraCom Inc. and affiliate YourTel America Inc.

Those records included sensitive data such as Social Security numbers, birth dates and home addresses as well as supporting documentation, such as scanned copies of passports and driver's license and financial accounts and tax records. A Scripps Howard News Service article reported that of those records, 44,000 were applications and another 127,00 were supporting documents to verify submissions. Indiana and Texas had the highest number of applicants now at risk.