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By | Ashlee Vance 23rd March 2006 20:40

40,000 BP workers exposed in Ernst & Young laptop loss

Sun, IBM and Cisco welcome BP to club

Exclusive Like sands through the hourglass, these are The Days of Ernst & Young laptop loss. Yes, friends, The Register can confirm that BP has been added to the list of Ernst & Young customers whose personal data has been exposed after a laptop theft. BP joins Sun Microsystems, Cisco and IBM in this not so exclusive club.

Ernst & Young has sent out a letter to all 38,000 BP employees in the US, telling them that a laptop theft had exposed their names and social security numbers. To keep the BP staff's mind at ease, Ernst & Young said that the file name containing their info did not indicate what type of information was on the laptop, and the laptop was password protected. Phew!

Ernst & Young confirmed that this is the very same laptop that held data on the Sun, Cisco and IBM workers. All of these data losses were revealed by us in a set of exclusive stories. Ernst & Young also recently lost four more laptops in Miami, although it has not said which customers were affected in those incidents.

Oddly, the Ernst & Young saga has gone untouched by other media outlets. That's somewhat surprising given the vigor with which security reporters chased down our initial confirmation yesterday that a Fidelity Investments laptop loss had exposed the personal information of 200,000 HP employees.

Ernst & Young continues to maintain a code of silence around the laptop thefts, saying only that the BP/Sun/IBM/Cisco machine was password protected. This speak no evil policy has resulted in a string of stories as Ernst & Young customers are told one by one about the theft.

It's difficult to obtain an exact figure on how many people have been affected by Ernst & Young's security lapse given that it won't say anything on the subject. We do, however, know that the IBM data breach exposed all current and former employees who have worked overseas at some point in their career. So, we're likely talking well over 100,000 people in that one incident.

You have to wonder how long these thefts can continue before the financial services companies start explaining why key customer data was sitting on laptops and why workers felt it okay to leave these laptops in their cars or in conference rooms. The lack of action on their part will no doubt encourage legislators to step in at some point.

Keep your letters coming. ®

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