A few days ago, Coca Cola disclosed that a number of laptops had been stolen from its corporate headquarters in Atlanta. These laptops had personal data of up to 74,000 people and, most disturbingly, the data had been stored on the laptops totally unencrypted. The laptops have been recovered, but it is not yet known whether the affected individuals are in increased danger of identity theft due to the original theft of the laptops. Among the information on the laptops were the names and Social Security numbers of 18,000 Coca Cola employees as well as personal information including driver’s license numbers on another 54,000 people. This is yet the latest instance of a disturbing trend of companies and government agencies not taking the basic security step of encrypting personal data on portable laptops. NASA has been victimized twice by theft of laptops with sensitive personal information. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this information should be encrypted.
What can you do to protect yourself from this type of corporate negligence? The first thing you can do is to ask any company that holds personal information about you as to whether they encrypt the data and, if not, why not. You should also ask about what other security steps they take to preserve the privacy of your information. Finally, you may wish to consider putting a credit freeze on your credit report which will prevent anyone who does get access to your personal data, such as your name and Social Security number from being able to access you credit report for purposes of utilizing your credit to make a large purchase. You can find information as to how to put a credit freeze on your credit report by clicking on the link on the right hand side of this page where it reads “credit freezes.”