The Information Commissioner’s Office has found Yorkshire Building Society in breach of the data protection act after an laptop was stolen containing customers’ unencrypted details.
The laptop belonged to Chelsea Building Society, which recently merged with the Yorkshire, and was held at its Cheltenham premises.
The laptop contained a substantial part of the Chelsea customer base. It was recovered within 48 hours after Yorkshire appointed private investigators. Forensic investigations revealed that none of the data had been accessed during that time, although there had been several att-empts to do so.
The computer was being used by a Chelsea employee who had been working from home and had given it, on request, to a manager who returned it to Chelsea’s former head office in Cheltenham.
It was later discovered that the manager had written down the passwords to the computer and left these in a bag with the laptop under a desk overnight.
Yorkshire says chief executive Iain Cornish has agreed to take a series of remedial steps to ensure that such a data security breach does not happen again.
This will include ensuring that all portable devices including laptops are encrypted that all staff are made aware of the company’s policies for the storage and use of personal data and that staff will only have access to the type and amount of personal data that is necessary for their work.
ICO head of enforcement Mick Gorrill says: “It is extremely concerning that an unencrypted laptop containing large amounts of personal data was left unsecured overnight, together with details of its passwords.
London & Country head of communications David Hollingworth says: “This kind of thing has happened before. Customers will be outraged to think their personal data was compromised but at least in this case they treated it with the gravity it deserves and managed to recover it. Lenders cannot be complacent about this and they need to have systems in place to prevent this.”