A data breach caused when an Office for Nuclear Regulation official lost an USB memory containing details about safety tests at the Hartleport power plant is currently being investigated by the authorities. While the memory stick was caring only safety “stress-test” not “significantly sensitive” data, none of the files stored had been encrypted. The stress tests the lost portable device stored are currently being carried out at European nuclear power plants in an attempt to prevent future disaster, like the nuclear disaster at Fukushima power plant caused by the Japan earthquake last year.
According to an official ONR statement, the reports contained by the memory stick would have been made public after their completion, yet the office completely forbids the use of unencrypted devices for transporting documents with security classification. This means that the official responsible for the breach has broken ONR security regulations. The Hartlepool plant, operated by EDF Energy, confirmed the lost USB stick did not have important data. They also mentioned that when they would have been published, the results of the tests would have been less detailed. Read more
Stolen hardware, and particularly laptops, is still a very common cause for data breaches, especially when it comes to hospitals and other healthcare companies. Three recent incidents have all involved patient details being exposed to identity theft, fraud and other risks, after being taken together with laptops held in medical offices.
While in some cases the stolen portable computers happened to be password protected, none of them had been encrypted to better prevent access to stolen private records. Read more
The ICO conducted an investigation on a case of hardware loss in May at the Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council. The incident consisted in the loss of an unencrypted memory stick by a Council’s finance department employee, stick which contained names, addresses and payment details for 18.000 residents. The missing hardware was not found to the date.
The investigation concluded that the Rochdale Council has breached the Data Protection Act by not providing employees with encrypted memory sticks (although it was a known fact that these devices would be used to transfer private information) and by not training their employees to properly use portable devices for work purposes.
Sally Anne Poole, ICO’s head of enforcement qualifies this mishap as ‘unacceptable’ and says ‘This incident could have been easily avoided if adequate security measures had been in place.’ in a quote by eWeek.
The measures taken by the ICO in this case consist of signing an undertaking of actions to take to implement data protection policies by 31st March 2012.
Let’s hope that more than one private data handling organization learns from this incident and encrypts their portable devices using proper solutions.
A whole lot was written on loss/theft of hardware (laptops, USB sticks, external hard drives, etc.) and we had thought that organizations would learn their lesson and encrypt sensitive data on such supports. Apparently, things aren’t quite like that and two recent incidents come to prove it.
A resident student at Vancouver Coastal Health lost a laptop and a USB stick (there is a high probability that the hardware was stolen) at the Toronto Airport. The information stored on the drives was password protected but it wasn’t encrypted.
A Vancouver Coastal Health official calls the incident ‘unfortunate’ and says that ‘This is the way physicians and other health care workers need to do their job. They need to use these devices.’ He admits that many professionals use laptops and that the agency has some issues handling mobile technologies.
Another mishap took place in the United Kingdom and the theft of a laptop that stored personal information of 100 young people who participated in inclusion programs. This laptop was in the house of a contractor of the Newcastle Youth Offending Team organization. The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) has established a fine for this organization for not encrypting the data. According to Sally-Anne Poole ‘Encryption is a basic procedure and an inexpensive way to ensure that information is kept secure.’ She underlines the fact that organizations working with contractors must make sure that the latter ones align to their security policies.
Let’s hope that at least legal constraints will force private data handlers to implement solutions and politics to maintain their data safe and secure.
Shands HealthCare has recently announced about 12,500 of their patients that their private medical data has been stolen in January, along with the laptop that contained the personal details. As it almost always happens in the case of hardware storing sensitive records, the laptop wasn’t encrypted in any way.
The stolen info contains names, addresses, medical record numbers and medical procedure codes of the patients, as well as the Social Security numbers of about 650 people. Luckily, up to know, there is no evidence of any misuse of the data, and we should keep hoping that the thief or thieves just needed the notebook to sell it or for personal use…
At least some measures have been taken: training for the employees and system-wide encryption policy to prevent such data breaches in the future. And of course, there’s protection for those affected, eligible for 12 months of free credit monitoring.
Let’s hope the new system works, as according to Gainesville.com, security breaches involving large amounts of patient data being exposed are some what of a recurring habit at Shands.
One of the most common causes of security breaches is stolen hardware. And I’m sure you’ve all heard of the thousands and thousands of laptops stolen in airports, from parking lots and other public places. And as most companies fail to implement a comprehensive endpoint security solution, a stolen laptop means trouble. For the end users, a laptop sometimes stores most of their documents, personal and business, memories from trips and other important events and everything that is private and dear to them. Picturing everything lost to a stranger’s hand is hard to cope it.
Dell states there’s a new way to prevent such bad things from happening: a self-encrypting laptop. Your data is still lost, but at least no one can acess it. The drives with self-encryption features are produced by Seagate and embedded in the new Dell product. And apparently, the Seagate hardware will soon be shipped by IBM and LSI as well. Let’s hope no one breaks the encryption system!
An NHS hospital in Dudley reported the theft of a laptop containing the personal information over 5,000 patients. Although the theft in question happened in January, word of it got out only later, when the Dudley Group of Hospitals announced all affected patients.
According to an article published by Vnunet.com, the laptop was properly secured, requiring a password to login and a different one for the actual database containing patient personal details. The article further shows that NHS blames the large number of people going in and out of a public hospital for the theft, claiming that the security is a major concern. The company has spent quite some money on data encryption but apparently they should have tried to complete the process sooner:
“We take precautions to try to protect all the IT equipment in our hospitals from theft, but given that this is a public building with thousands of people accessing it every day, there are inevitably practical difficulties around security.”
Farenden said that the trust is in the process of rolling out encryption technology, following a £135,000 spend on data security. However, the laptop in question had not been upgraded before it was stolen.