RealTime IT News

Retiree Data Lost in Laptop Theft

UPDATED: Following a theft of several laptop computers from a benefit consultant, retirees are being urged to monitor credit records.

The five laptops stolen last month contain personal information of Towers Perrin clients' current and retired employees, said the pension and 401K management giant.

In a statement, the company said it recently became aware of the theft of five laptops. Towers Perrin offered few details, except that the lost data includes "personal information" about clients "current, and possibly, former employees."

The number of people affected by the data breach is unknown. The company said it was still compiling a list of employees impacted by the incident.

Because the investigation was continuing, a company spokesman wouldn't comment on when the laptops were stolen. Reportedly, a former employee was arrested Dec. 28 by New York police.

"We take seriously our commitment to safeguarding our clients' confidential information and notified our affected clients as quickly as possible," the company said.

Towers Perrin said it is reviewing its security measures. All company laptops are password-protected, according to the spokesperson.

Potentially, personal data available to benefit planners includes names, addresses, Social Security numbers and account information. Towers Perrin, however, said it had "no knowledge that any of this has been misused."

The Towers Perrin laptop theft capped a year that reached a notorious milestone. According to privacy advocacy group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, 100 million data records were exposed since the February 2005 ChoicePoint data breach, according to a chronology by advocacy group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Among the single largest: the 2006 theft of a Veterans Affairs laptop containing the records of 26.5 million people.

Last month a Boeing employee was fired after violating the aeronautic company's policy designed to combat repeated data breaches. In December, 380,000 Boeing employees received free credit monitoring following three laptop thefts. The company now encrypts all data.

Some privacy advocates consider medical records the newest target for identity thieves, because fraudulent medical charges can easily hide among the many legitimate costs.