Notebook Theft May Expose Personal DataThieves stole a laptop that contained social security number for thousands of blood donors.
Tom Krazit, IDG News Service
A notebook PC containing the personal information of thousands of blood donors was stolen from a blood bank in California last week, exposing those donors to the possibility of identify theft.
The laptop was recovered late on Tuesday by the Delta Blood Bank with the help of police and other organizations in Tracy, California, where the theft took place, says John O'Neill, director of human resources for the Stockton, California, organization. Tracy is about 60 miles east of San Francisco.
Individuals who had donated blood at Delta's mobile donation stations were required to provide their names, addresses, and Social Security numbers to Delta Blood Bank, O'Neill says. The stolen laptop contained the personal information of "tens of thousands" of donors, he says. Delta sent a letter to donors informing them of the incident last Saturday, as required by California law.
Delta believes the thief was more interested in the notebook itself rather than the personal information contained on the PC, but it is currently conducting forensic tests on the database in which the personal information was stored to determine if any of the data was accessed, O'Neill says.
Delta recommends that donors whose information was stored on the laptop obtain a credit report from one of the three U.S. credit agencies, Equifax, Experian Information Solutions, or Trans Union.
The incident highlights the ease with which personal information can be obtained in order to open a credit card or tap into a bank account. While online security companies work diligently to prevent hacking incidents such as the recent theft of personal information from computers at the University of California, Berkeley, data can always be physically removed from an organization by the theft or loss of unsecured PCs.
The information within the notebook was protected by a password login to Microsoft's Windows operating system and a complex database that is hard to navigate for unfamiliar users, O'Neill says. Delta is considering new security measures for its roster of notebooks, including lockable hard drives and more sophisticated encryption technologies, he says. Also, the organization no longer requires donors to provide their Social Security numbers.