Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Laptop Records Employee Identity Theft Is Epidemic

At a conference in Japan, a Dell laptop suddenly exploded into flames, and lucky for its owner the fiery blast occurred while the PC was sitting on a table and not in his lap. An onlooker reported that the notebook continued to burn, producing several more explosions over the course of about five minutes. It’s only a matter of time before something like this happens on an airplane. [editor's note: at least the records will not be comprimised] Photo Credit: Charlie White – 6-21-2006 (HT: Gizmodo)

The U.S. Military is not the only organization to suffer from personnel records being compromised when a laptop is stolen. This stuff happens in the private sector as well. In fact it has happened twice to a major food marketing company this month alone.

Why are public and private employee records allowed to be transported on laptop computers that can be stolen and possibly compromised? Why aren’t these records kept on database media that is encrypted and locked down much like PDF documents while they are being moved around from location to location?

Forgive me if I am wrong, but in our society, don’t we take better care of our copyrighted sales brochure and procedure manuals data than we take care of our employee identity data?

Excerpts from Progressive Grocer -

Laptop with Ahold Employees' Confidential Info Swiped -- Again
Progressive Grocer, JUNE 27, 2006

QUINCY, Mass. -- In the second such incident to occur this month involving one of Ahold USA's external service providers, a laptop computer containing the personal information of current and former company employees was stolen during a domestic commercial airline flight.

Ahold USA spokesman Barry F. Scher told Progressive Grocer that Ahold here wasnít responsible for either of the security breaches. "We're the victims," Scher said.

A Deloitte Accountants spokesman told PG that the information on the stolen computer was password-protected. Deloitte spokesman Jeff Zack confirmed that one of its employees had violated company policy by checking the computer as luggage on an airline flight. According to Zack, the incident has been reported to airline and law enforcement authorities.

The information was about current and former associates who received or exercised stock options last year, Scher told PG. Ahold and Deloitte Accountants would not disclose any further details about what kind of personal information was stored on the computer, when the laptop was stolen, or how many current and former employees were affected.

There so far has been no evidence that information relating to any current or former associate has been misused, Ahold noted in a written statement.

"While our company has substantial policies and procedures concerning data confidentiality, both internally and with external service providers, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of such policies," Scher said in the statement. "We plan to evaluate and, if appropriate, implement additional safeguards upon completion of this review, and we will require our external service providers to confirm their compliance."

Earlier in June, an employee of Electronic Data Systems who was boarding a commercial flight had checked a laptop containing former Ahold employees' pension information, and the computer was also reportedly subsequently stolen. Current employees' information wasn't stored on the first stolen computer, officials said.

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