Friday, June 6, 2008

Hold on to your laptop

Having had a laptop stolen years ago I feel badly for the guy who had this stolen.

Hopefully the data will remain secure.

AT&T laptop containing sensitive info was stolen
By Sanford Nowlins:

San Antonio-based phone giant AT&T Inc. said Thursday that a laptop containing names, Social Security numbers and salary information of some of its management employees was stolen from a worker's vehicle.

AT&T officials said the information is password-protected, but added that the company is offering free credit monitoring to employees whose data was on the laptop. The company also has taken disciplinary action against the worker who left the laptop in the vehicle. It was stolen last week.

“We don't have any reason to believe that the data has been compromised, but we're talking with law enforcement officials about trying to locate the laptop,” spokesman Mike Barger said.
AT&T is in the process of encrypting, or using special coding, to protect its electronically stored data. However, the data on this laptop had not yet been through the process, Barger added.
Barger wouldn't say how many employees' information is on the laptop. He also declined to say where the computer was stolen, saying that revealing the location might tip off thieves to the sensitive data it contains.

AT&T has been stung by data breaches before.

In 2006, AT&T sued data brokers for fraudulently accessing customers' private phone records. It also announced that hackers broke into one of its e-commerce sites to steal customer credit card data.

Data breaches -- whether by hackers, internal thieves or employee carelessness -- have risen in recent years as businesses and the public sector have stored more sensitive information in computer files.

Last month, a breach in an Oklahoma State University computer server revealed names, addresses and Social Security numbers of 70,000 people who had purchased parking permits. Two weeks prior, a former U.S. military contractor pleaded guilty to identity theft after he was accused of selling the Social Security numbers of 17,000 military employees that he obtained from a San Antonio Marine Corps Reserve center.

Gartner analyst Avivah Litan said AT&T is not alone in dealing with laptop thefts. The majority of U.S. corporations still don't encrypt data saved on the devices, even as more workers carry them, she added.

“Breaking a password on a laptop is pretty easy these days,” she said. “I don't know why there aren't more companies encrypting.”