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Theft of Government laptop Causes Panic

A laptop containing social security numbers of over a million Oklahoma residents was stolen from a government employee’s car, leaving the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) with the task of informing the affected residents of the theft.

 

The computer was stolen while the employee stopped on her way home, and contained personal information such as names, Social Security numbers, birthdates and addresses of DHS recipients of benefits such as Medicaid, nutrition aid, disability benefits and child care assistance. While the data inside the laptop was unencrypted, the DHS assured the public that data leakage was unlikely as the machine is protected by a double password protection system. The agency believes that the thief probably did not know the true value of the laptop stolen and was probably after the laptop itself. The DHS considers this as a random act of theft, and not a direct attempt on the agency or the data contained in the stolen laptop itself. An investigation is being done to review information security policies of the DHS; although they did not believe the employee was not violating any existing policy.

Government laptop with sensitive data lost

 Residents have expressed their concerns regarding this incident despite the reassurances of the DHS – some being reluctant to resubmit personal information to replace the records stolen. And while the government reassures everyone that everything is ok, security expert David Yost thinks otherwise. Yost worries that identity theft rings might be organizing laptop thefts to gain access to sensitive personal information. The thief who stole the government laptop may already be planning to sell it to such a group, Yost believes. He claims that a laptop is stolen every 12 seconds. To respond to this growing concern, the Oklahoma government is planning to create a state information privacy body to take care of future cases like this.

 

This theft comes immediately after the release of a study conducted by Ponemon Institute and Intel regarding lost laptops. According to the study, the average value of a lost laptop is $49,246 – with up to 80% of this cost is due to the potential cost a security breach of the data in the laptop would incur.

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