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Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Based on a recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS has had hundreds of laptops lost or stolen, data has gone unencrypted, and password security is lacking. reports that “…sensitive data for a ‘significant number’ of taxpayers has become available for potential identity theft and other fraudulent schemes.” The breaches occurred between Jan. 2, 2003, and June 13, 2006. Here’s what the report says is causing the incidents: unlocked laptops; laptops left in vehicles’ trunks unattended; left at home when not in use. The advent of the lackadaisical handling of laptops with consumers’ personal data by business and government is completely out of hand, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. The 60-year old VA analyst that lost 26.5 million veterans’ records in May of 2006—eventually recovered—was fired, but then there was another laptop stolen in August of 2006, and a portable hard drive stolen or missing in February of 2007. The U.S. Transportation Dept. had three laptop thefts in a row, August 9, 15, 25 of 2006. In the private sector, some big names unable to keep up with laptops containing consumers’ private information are Starbucks, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan/Chase Bank, Boeing, Verizon, Aetna Insurance, Equifax (0ne of big three credit bureaus), and Chevron. There are more, both business and government, particular educational institutions where data security is the lowest. During the time period 2003 through 2006, above, the Tax Administration reports that IRS staff were unaware of security requirements, and get this “…somehow did not know that your personal financial information is considered sensitive data. This out-dumbs everything I have ever heard on this issue. And in the end something that may surprise many but not me, the agency hired ChoicePoint, the company that literally introduced us to the ID theft issue with the first reported breach in Feb. 2005, to help manage their public records. As John Stossel would say: Give me a break!

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