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By | John Leyden 6th August 2007 11:20

VeriSign worker exits after laptop security breach

Man overboard

VeriSign has warned workers of the theft of a laptop that contained their personal information.

The laptop was stolen from a car parked in the garage of a California worker sometime on the night of 12 July. The laptop contained personal information - name, Social Security number, date of birth, salary information, telephone numbers, and home addresses - of an unknown number of VeriSign employees. Bank account numbers or password information were not stored on the machine.

Data on the machine was not encrypted, in contravention of VeriSign policies, raising ID theft concerns. The unnamed worker involved has left VeriSign while the web security firm has responded by promising to tighten up its security policies.

In a letter to workers, VeriSign said the laptop was probably stolen in a random burglary. Nonetheless, the security infrastructure firm is offering to pay a year's credit watch monitoring subscription to those potentially affected.

Reports of the breach first surfaced on Wizbang on Friday. Prompted by our follow-up questions, Verisign issued a statement explaining its response to the breach.

VeriSign is taking the recent laptop theft very seriously. The Company initiated an investigation as soon as the theft was discovered. We have no reason to believe that the thief or thieves acted with the intent to extract and use this information. The local police have said the theft may be tied to a series of neighborhood burglaries. We disabled any access by the employee’s computer to the VeriSign network. The employee involved in this incident has since left VeriSign.

The Company has a policy on how to manage laptops that contain sensitive information and company data - which in this case was not followed. That policy includes not leaving laptops in vehicles in plain view, keeping the amount of confidential and sensitive data stored on laptops to a minimum, and using data encryption tools to protect those sets of data that absolutely must be stored on a laptop. Going forward, we will continue to review our security procedures to prevent future human errors of this type.

VeriSign specialises in marketing the digital certificates and other elements of the infrastructure that underpin secure web transactions, so any kind of security breach is embarrassing.

It's far from alone in having problems with lost or stolen laptops containing sensitive information, however.

Similar thefts have sparked security flaps at Marks & Spencer, Nationwide Building Society, the Metropolitan Police, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and others. ®

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