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November 16, 2009

Stolen laptop contains personal data of St Albans voters

Details of more than 14,000 postal voters on machine

By Vinod

A laptop containing the personal details of more than 14,000 postal voters has been stolen from St Albans district council offices.

The laptop held the names, addresses, dates of birth and signatures of 14,673 people who had applied for a postal vote in the June local election, the St Albans and Harpenden review reported.

Council officials believed the incident was linked to the disappearance of three other laptops from council offices earlier this month. The council was confident that the risks to the local residents involved were minimal, as the data was protected by two levels of security access. All 14,673 people involved will be alerted to the slight risks involved.

Chris McIntosh, CEO at security supplier Stonewood Group said: This council is actually ahead of some others in that they at least had two layers of security to access this personal data. However, we don’t know what these two layers are, and if they’re just simple ‘log-in’ passwords then it is – quite simply – not good enough, as they can be easily hacked. Organisations must start to understand the value of data and treat it accordingly. In cases like this where we are talking about personal data it must be encrypted to ensure that if a device is stolen the data can’t be accessed.

Earlier today, a report from Overtis highlighted the fact that data loss was endemic in UK firms, as they failed to take simple precautions such as encryption and educating staff to prevent accidental or malicious data loss.

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