RealTime IT News

Boeing Grappling With Data Theft

Some 382,000 Boeing employees are receiving free credit monitoring after the company confirmed yet another laptop containing personal data was recently stolen. This time from an employee's car.

The Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, home addresses and phone numbers, as well as salaries of both current and retired employees, were available in two unencrypted computer files on the password-protected laptop.

Tim Neale, Boeing's media director, refused to say where the theft took place or why the employee had unencrypted employee data on his or her computer.

Boeing said the most recent identity theft resulted from an employee violating a requirement to remove all personally identifiable data from company computers, a step taken in response to previous laptop thefts.

The aerospace company also began requiring the automatic encryption of all data stored on computers.

In a statement, Boeing said it was "committed to both helping every affected individual protect their identity and to ensuring that future incidents of this nature do not occur."

Neale said Boeing is providing employees affected by the recent laptop theft with free three-year credit monitoring, and would extend for another year the credit and ID theft services it already provides victims of the previous laptop thefts.

But former FBI ID theft specialist R.M. Tracy and founder of the Privacy Trust Group, said a few years of free credit checks doesn't go far enough.

Thieves will own that personal information forever, she said. Although laptops are frequently cited as a source of identification breaches, sensitive data can also be found on BlackBerry e-mail devices.

This incident marks the third theft of personal data stored on Boeing laptops within the past 13 months.

A Boeing laptop containing personal information on 160,000 employees was stolen in November 2005, and in April a laptop with the names of 3,600 Boeing employees was taken.

Boeing is not alone in contending with laptop theft. In September, 50,000 former and current GE faced the risk of identity theft after a laptop containing their personal information was stolen.

And even the U.S. government is not immune. The Department of Commerce in September reported 1,100 laptops were missing, 249 of which contained personal data. And in June, the FBI recovered a stolen Veterans Administration laptop, which stored the personal data of 26.5 million veterans.