Two FTC Laptops Stolen
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UPDATED: First the Department of Veteran Affairs. Now the Federal Trade Commission. Laptops from government agencies are a hot item.
The agency today said two FTC attorneys' laptops containing the personal information of 110 people were stolen from a locked vehicle last week.
The theft was announced one month after a laptop containing the personal information from millions of veterans was stolen from an employee of the Department of Veteran Affairs.
The FTC laptops included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and financial account numbers gathered in law enforcement investigations for defendants in current and past FTC cases.
There was no information about FTC employees or any government officials on the computers, said Betsy Broder, assistant director in the division of privacy and identity protection at the FTC.
"These are all names that were gathered in the course of law enforcement investigation and prosecution," Broder told internetnews.com.
"They [the employees] were on a case, so they were absolutely authorized to have their laptops with them."
Broder said the FTC will send letters to the individuals whose information was in the computers, explaining the type of information that may have been on the laptop and the moves the individuals should take to limit their risk of identity theft.
The FTC also said that it does not believe the thief was targeting the information on the laptops, and that the laptops were secured with passwords.
The FTC will offer these individuals one year of free credit monitoring from a credit agency to be determined later, Broder said.
Moreover, the FTC's inspector general has been notified and is investigating the theft. The local police department, as well as the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, have also been notified.
While the FTC may be the latest government agency to report a laptop theft, it doesn't come close to the magnitude of the theft that grabbed the attention of millions of concerned veterans and government officials.
That theft, the second largest data breach on record, included the names and Social Security numbers of every veteran discharged after 1975, putting 26.5 million veterans at risk for identity theft.
The House Commerce Committee sprang into action the same week, approving legislation requiring data brokers to notify consumers when there is a "reasonable" risk the breach could result in identity theft.
Veterans then filed a class action lawsuit demanding the VA name those who are at risk for identity theft.
The suit seeks $1,000 in damages for each person, a payout that could reach $26.5 billion.
Governments aren't the only victims of laptop pilfering.
Earlier this month, Hotels.com said 243,000 customers' names and credit card numbers were on a laptop stolen from an employee of Ernst & Young.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse said that since February 2005, more than 88 million people have had their personal information potentially exposed by unauthorized access to the computer systems of companies and institutions.
While it's no easy task, committed perpetrators could use Social Security numbers to impersonate people and create a slew of accounts, especially over the Internet.