Windstream's customer database used by employee for identity theft

A now-former Windstream employee is in jail after using his employer's customer database for identity theft purposes.
Written by Stephen Chapman, Contributor
Windstream Communications, a nation-wide provider of high-speed Internet, phone, and TV services, is busy doing damage control after an employee used Windstream's customer database to open fraudulent accounts with online retailers. The man, Walter Darnell Austin, was purchasing merchandise and having the packages shipped to unoccupied homes near China Grove, NC, where he would pick them up. Police observed him stopping by to collect the goods from one home in particular. Currently, there is no news of the event on Windstream's news section, but as foxcharlotte.com reports, Windstream is "making efforts to assist in identifying any customers that were possibly victimized." Austin has been charged with identity theft trafficking, amongst other felonies, and is in jail with a $10,000 bond set. Unfortunately, this just goes to show that no matter how secure you try to keep your data, as long as it's in the hands of any other entity where others have access to it, there's always a chance that it could be misused -- and in completely unexpected ways, no less. ZDNet recently ran a piece regarding a customer database that was discovered, via Google, directly on the Web site of a service provider -- just one more example of the many unexpected ways your information could fall into the wrong hands. Update: A Windstream representative has contacted me with the following statement:
The Rowan County Sheriff's Office notified Windstream Tuesday morning that they were looking for Walter Austin, a Windstream network technician, in connection with an investigation into the alleged theft of customer account information. We told them he had not reported for work and that he had turned in his equipment and vehicle the night before. We immediately began an internal investigation, and we believe that Mr. Austin was accessing old paper records that were in a storage area in Windstream's retail store in Kannapolis. The records were paper forms from the mid to late 1990s related to the activation of wireless and long-distance service provided by CT Communications, which Windstream acquired in 2007. We immediately took steps to prevent unauthorized access to these records. Mr. Austin was hired by CT Communications in 1999 and is no longer employed by Windstream. We are still determining which forms were accessed. We don't know yet if the forms involve any current Windstream customers. We have not notified any current or former customers, as the investigation is still on-going. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement agencies. Windstream takes very seriously its obligation to protect customer information and will vigorously pursue and prosecute any unauthorized access of its records.
Are there any Windstream customers reading, or perhaps anyone who has first-hand experience dealing with identity theft? Share your thoughts in the comments below! -Stephen Chapman
SEO Whistleblower
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