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Non-Encrypted Hall of Shame
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September 29, 2006 - Asheville Citizen-Times
North Carolina Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) – a computer containing personal information on 16,000 drivers license applicants was stolen from a Louisburg, NC DMV office earlier this month. The information on the computer contained Social Security numbers, birth dates and drivers license numbers. In an odd statement Louisburg police detective Jason Abbott said the thieves probably sought the computer to make counterfeit drivers licenses, rather than to commit financial fraud. Other than under-age drinking exactly what does the detective think the drivers licenses will be used for? With this type information thieves can easily obtain credit cards in their name and with a fake drivers license can setup bank accounts, cash checks, etc. One certainly doesn't hope the licenses will be used for under-age drinking but the alternatives are very bad as well. DMV spokeswoman Marge Howell claims the personal information is not easily accessible. Why do they always say that? Five minutes on certain IRC channels will find someone that would purchase the data and unless its encrypted I guarantee it would be easily accessible to them. btw; there is no indication that the data was encrypted.

September 26, 2006 – ComputerWorld
General Electric (GE) - a company laptop containing the names and Social Security numbers of 50,000 current and former employees was stolen in early September from a locked hotel room. No information as to why this data was on the laptop. GE did state that the employee who had the laptop stolen from them was not fired. Apparently the data on the laptop was not encrypted.

No Longer Supported

September 25, 2006
Colorado University's Leeds School of Business - Two laptop computers containing the personal information and Social Security numbers of nearly 1,400 CU-Boulder students were lost or stolen. The two computers disappeared while the school was moving to a different campus building on August 28th. No data encryption mentioned therefore it is doubtful the student's data was protected.

September 22, 2006 – MSNBC.COM
United States Commerce Department – 1,137 laptops have been lost or stolen at the Commerce Department in the last 5 years. Of those at least 246 contained Personal Identity Information (PII) (new government buzz term for your private information). Most of these laptops belonged to the Census Bureau and were used for data collection in the field. Its actually quite understandable that some of the 30,000 laptops they use would disappear (though 1 out of 30 seems high). Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez said in their press release that "All of the equipment that was lost or stolen contained protections to prevent a breach of personal information" and apparently some of the PII data was encrypted. We sent a message to their office (that was read) on September 22nd asking if all devices containing PII data were encrypted. But as of September 27th we have not received a reply. Therefore until we hear from them their name goes on the list. The Census Bureau says that they have been adding encryption to all new laptops since 2001 but they still report that 139 of the missing or stolen laptops "were either partially encrypted or had no encryption". We do applaud the Commerce Department, and the Census Bureau in particular, for their recent efforts to improve the situation by encrypting new portable computers.

September 16, 2006 –
Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin – A laptop owned by an employee of the accounting firm Morris, Davis & Chan in Oakland was stolen from the auditor's locked car in a public parking lot. The laptop contained the names and social security numbers of as many as 500 current and former employees of Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin. The information on the computer had not been encrypted but had been password protected. But as said here many times just using a operating system password is almost useless since it is child's play to circumvent. Good encryption is next to impossible to break. If a company turns over senstive data to a third party, even auditing companies, they should be requiring the use of data encryption to protect that data. Responsibility does not end at the front door. This is a law firm after all, they should be able to write up a simple contract clause. Auditing firms have been burned on this a number of times lately and still apparently have not gotten the message.

September 16, 2006 – Detroit Free Press
Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) – An unencrypted USB flash drive was stolen from MDCH that contained the personal information on more than 4,000 current and former Michigan residents participating in a medical research study. The USB drive contained the names, current addresses, telephone, Social Security numbers and birth dates of the people participating in the study. The information did not include any health information, medical records or laboratory information The study was tracking the long-term effects of exposure to high levels of polybrominated biphenyls, a flame retardant that got mixed into cattle feed in the 1970s and was ingested by Michiganders in beef and milk. Apparently the data was not encrypted.

September 13, 2006 – WISCTV.COM
American Family Insurance – Computers containing personal information on 2,089 customers was stolen from an American Family Insurance office on July 10th. The company started mailing out notifications to customers on Sept. 8th, apparently after a 45 day notification deadline under state insurance law. One of the stolen computers contained customer Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, and the customers address. American Family said that most of its agents keep personal customer information on laptop computers and that they are now looking in to technical means to protect that information. So in short all of the laptops currently in use by American Family Insurance Agents are not protected and the data is not encrypted. A privacy disaster waiting to happen.

September 11, 2006 – Pionner Press
University of Minnesota – Two computers were stolen from the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology that contained personal information on over 13,000 students. Information included names, birth dates, addresses, phone numbers, the high school they attended, student identification numbers, grades and test scores, and academic probation. The computers also contained the social security numbers of 603 students. The computers were stolen in August from the desk of the program coordinator. University officials did not know why the data was stored on the computers' hard drives rather than on the physically secured servers. When the department director was contacted by the news media all she could say was 'it's just really been a bad day,' before hanging up. No sign of data encryption.

September 1, 2006 – Chicago Tribune
City of Chicago - Personal data for more than 38,000 city of Chicago employees and retirees was on a laptop computer that was stolen from a company that provides retirement savings program services to the city employees. The city of Chicago said a laptop computer was stolen in April 2005 from the home of an employee who works for Nationwide Retirement Solutions, a Columbus, Ohio-based company. The laptop contained names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and Social Security numbers. The city of Chicago was not notified of the theft until July of 2006, over a year after the theft. This obviously is unsatisfactory. The company also said there was little to worry about because "the laptop was protected by a complicated password". Using only the operating system password to protect individuals personal data is also unsatisfactory, it should have been protected with strong encryption.

article index
page 1 : March 2007 to Present
page 2 : February 2007
page 3 : January 2007
page 4 : December 2006
page 5 : November 2006
page 6 : October 2006
page 7 - current : September 2006
page 8 : August 2006
page 9 : July 2006
page 10 : Prior to July 2006
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