Laptop theft compromises childrens' data

Three laptops, one of which contains the names, addresses and dates of birth of 11,000 children in Nottinghamshire have gone missing from Nottinghamshire County Teaching Primary Care Trust.

Three laptops, one of which contains the names, addresses and dates of birth of 11,000 children in Nottinghamshire have gone missing from Nottinghamshire County Teaching Primary Care Trust.

The computers went missing on 21 March. The trust, which was only set up last October, says it has written to all parents of the children involved, warning them of the theft.

The laptop is said to have been password protected, but the information is not thought to have been encrypted.

Trust chief executive Wendy Saviour said, “When we discovered the theft, we immediately took steps to determine the nature of the information held on these computers.”

She said one of the computers contained names, addresses and dates of birth of local children, aged between eight months and eight years. The children are from the Newark & Sherwood, Ashfield and Mansfield areas of the county.

Saviour said, “We are working closely with the police to investigate this theft and to recover the stolen computers.

“There was no health information or other details on the laptop. The information was protected by a password, which reduces the chances of anyone being able to see the information. We have however this week, written to all the 9,742 families affected by this theft to inform them of what has happened.”

Saviour added that “action will be taken to ensure that lessons are learned”.

Jamie Cowper from data encryption expert PGP, said, “Once again, a laptop containing sensitive information has been stolen from inside a trusted public institution. The fact that this time the information in question relates to young children is a stark illustration that it is not just fraud and identity theft we need to worry about in cases like these.”

He said, “Passwords aren't enough - to achieve absolute information security, organisations have to deploy comprehensive encryption policies across all devices.”

The UK information commissioner recently threatened a number of banks, the immigration service and Royal Mail with fines, if they failed to tighten up their data security after customer details were found dumped outside their buildings.

Related article: High price of failing to tighten data security.

Related article: Police force secures data with biometrics

Comment on this article: computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk


 

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