Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Why Do Companies Keep Losing Personal Information?

Interesting Article from FORTUNE:

"The Great Data Heist
Why can't corporations keep their customers' personal data secure? Inside the world of identity theft."

By Daniel Roth and Stephanie Mehta and

"The press release was written just seven months ago, yet it already sounds quaint. "U.S. announces guilty plea in largest identity-theft case in nation's history," declared the U.S. Attorney's office. The thief in question, a 35-year-old British immigrant named Philip Cummings, had admitted his central role in using information he had learned at work to pull off what the government declared to be "a massive scheme to steal the identities of up to 30,000 people."

Turns out Cummings was bush league. In February data aggregator ChoicePoint acknowledged that identity thieves had stolen vital information on 145,000 people. Less than two weeks later Bank of America admitted it had lost backup tapes that held the account information of 1.2 million credit card holders. In March shoe retailer DSW said its stores' credit card data had been breached; the U.S. Secret Service estimated that at least 100,000 valuable numbers had been accessed. More than a month later DSW released the real number: 1.4 million. Reed Elsevier's LexisNexis, a ChoicePoint rival, followed suit, revealing first that unauthorized users had compromised 32,000 identities, then upping the number to 310,000.

And those are just the headliners. Companies were admitting scores of smaller breaches. On April 8, the San Jose Medical Group announced that someone had stolen one of its computers and potentially gained access to 185,000 patient records. A few days later customers of Polo Ralph Lauren learned that a hacker had gained access to 180,000 HSBC credit cards used at its stores. Then, on April 20, Ameritrade blamed its shipping vendor for losing a backup tape containing personal information on 200,000 clients.....

For the Full Article, see FORTUNE online at:,15114,1056163,00.html


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