Ten Tech Blunders: Whoops, We Stepped in It!: Page 9

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9) All The Missing Data (Where Does it all Go To?)

The Blunder:

The concept of data security, in which sensitive data is held fully protected, has gone out of style.

What Happened:

An epidemic rages across the land. Businesses, it seems, are incapable of securing their information. Staffers bring home laptops, where they’re promptly stolen. Senior executives leave notebooks in the back seats of cabs. Huge corporations are hacked on a weekly (daily?) basis.

For some reason, companies simply cannot hang on to their data. Like a fifth-grader with a hole in his pocket, they get their lunch money, and…poof! It’s gone.

The phenomenon calls to mind Sun ex-CEO Scott McNealy's comment to reporters, regarding privacy issues: "You have zero privacy anyway – get over it." The quote could be tweaked: “There is no data security anyway – get over it.”

There are stories like this one, in which large companies sell lists of names to telemarketing criminals, who then bilk the elderly. Then there are breeches like retailer TJX’s, in which 45 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen from its IT system over 18 months.

But the list of “data on the move” is endless. For instance:

Last year, a Cal State, Los Angeles employee’s USB drive was inside a purse stolen from a trunk. It held personal data on more than 2,500 students and program applicants.

Hertz Global Holdings said that it dropped a prominent financial services company from its underwriting team after several e-mails discussing its $1.5 billion IPO were inadvertently sent to about 175 institutional clients.

Veterans groups filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs after a laptop was stolen from an employee’s home. It contained Social Security numbers and birth dates for 26.5 million veterans and their spouses. None of the data was encrypted, and the employee had been routinely taking home confidential data for at least three years.

At this late data there’s been so much data lost that it’s no longer clear: is there more data behind secure walls, or out in the wild, bought and sold by scamsters?

Moral of the story:

Information wants to be free. But not that free.

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