Laptop Lifted From Data Provider’s Office

Tack on another case in what seems to be an epidemic of laptop thefts and losses: Wolters Kluwer, a Dutch business information publisher, earlier this month informed U.S. employees that a laptop with data on 8,500 current and former workers was stolen from a payroll department office over Memorial Day weekend.

In a letter to employees dated July 11, Mark Sherman, chief human-resources officer of Wolters Kluwer in North America, said the company discovered on May 29 that a laptop and docking station had been taken from a locked, private office in Torrance, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles.

The PC contained “personal employee information”–including addresses, Social Security numbers, and some health plan and premium information–for Wolters Kluwer’s approximately 8,000 North America employees, as well as about 500 employees who have recently left the company. Wolters Kluwer has about 18,500 employees worldwide.

In addition, the letter said the laptop may have included bank account information for 600 employees who joined the company since Jan. 1.

Wolters Kluwer, whose North American headquarters is in Riverwoods, Ill., says it “promptly notified” law enforcement officials and says it has no evidence that any of the information has been accessed or used by unauthorized parties. Still, it has offered employees access to identity-protection services from Equifax, a credit reporting bureau.

Wolters Kluwer spokesman Kevin Class says the company waited until July to send letters to employees about the incident because “given the serious nature of the incident and the large number of people across the United States potentially affected, we needed to ensure that we were thorough in our research, planning and actions.”

Class says Wolters Kluwer has “increased physical, administrative and technical protections for private information–including the encryption of such data on payroll department laptop computers.” He also notes that the laptop theft did not involve any customer information.

Wolters Kluwer, which had $4 billion (3.4 billion euros) in revenue last year, sells information on health, financial services, taxes, accounting, laws, regulations and education worldwide.

The incident comes after several other recent reports of stolen laptops:

  • In May, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employee’s laptop–with personal information for more than 26 million veterans and their dependents, plus 2.2 million active-duty military members–was stolen from the employee’s home (see What You Can Learn From the VA’s Snafu).
  • In June, the Federal Trade Commission, the agency responsible for enforcing privacy laws, said that a laptop with unencrypted private data on 110 people was stolen from a car used by its attorneys (see Security: Don’t Spring a Data Leak).
  • In March, Fidelity Investments said a laptop with personal information on almost 200,000 Hewlett-Packard employees was stolen (see Stolen Fidelity Laptop Exposes HP Workers).