By Caren Chesler
New York Daily News
January 28th 2008
Yet another consequence of the falling housing market may be a rise in
As mortgage companies are forced out of business, many are selling off
their computers without properly deleting the sensitive financial
information stored on their hard drives. The result is that borrowers'
credit reports may fall into the hands of hackers, according to computer
"It's extremely unlikely they are wiping those disks properly," said
Matthew Curtin, founder of Interhack, a security consulting firm in
Even deleted files are often easy to reconstruct. Curtin said his firm
routinely recovers financial and medical records from second-hand
Gregory Evans, a cyber-security expert in Marina Del Ray, Calif., said
he went to a swap meet late last year and bought a $500 computer from a
former mortgage company. With a $19 undelete program, he was able to
retrieve credit reports on 300 people.
He was also able to recover the user names and passwords that several of
the mortgage company's former employees used to access the credit
The best strategy for borrowers hoping to protect their personal
information is to take security into their own hands. Borrowers should
ask their mortgage broker how their financial information will be
handled before they take a loan.
In the financial sector, security experts view small- and medium-sized
firms as the weakest links.
Unlike large institutions, smaller firms don't have the money to protect
their data properly, said Chris Miller of Digitiliti, a data protection
company in Minneapolis. "If they're failing, the last thing they're
worried about is tight security," Miller said.
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