Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Farmers Insurance Clients' Info Hacked

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A big insurance company has a problem with its computers. Federal agents searched two middle Tennessee homes after someone hacked into Farmers Insurance customers' records.

Farmers Insurance is trying to get word out to policy holders, and the Secret Service is trying to figure out how it happened.

According to a statement sent to the Channel 4 I-Team from Farmers Insurance, someone obtained unauthorized computer access to some of their customers' information in Nashville.

Given that the information is so sensitive, Farmers became concerned and contacted the Secret Service, which investigates cyber crime along with protecting the president and other heads of state.

In the statement to the I-Team, Farmers Insurance said a former insurance agent of theirs may have accessed the information, and it is in the process of notifying potentially affected customers.

The I-Team has learned investigators want to know if an insurance agent shared that information.

On Nov. 18, Channel 4 received an e-mail from a man named Michael Brown, who runs Endless Sphere Technology, an Internet provider.

In the e-mail, Brown said a few months ago he discovered a flaw in the agent page for Farmers Insurance that allows someone to extract all the information from its database, such as insurance policies, names, addresses and Social Security numbers.

He said he tried to warn Farmers about the glitch but was ignored.

"I warned them many times that I would go to the media with this if they continued to ignore me," Brown said in the e-mail.

This week, Secret Service agents showed up at Brown's house, serving a search warrant.

Brown said he was hired by the insurance agent to extract people's personal information from the Web site. He said that when he realized it was people's Social Security numbers, he contacted Farmers but was vague with it and the Secret Service about how he obtained the information.

"I think the outcome would've been the same," said Brown when asked if he regretted not being more open from the beginning.

No one has been arrested or charged.

Along with the search warrant at Brown's house, Secret Service agents also served a warrant Tuesday at the new office of their former insurance agent.

The Secret Service would not say where that agent now works or what his name is.


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