The Information Commissioner’s Office has found Yorkshire Building Society in breach of the data protection act after an unencrypted laptop was stolen containing customers’ details.
The laptop belonged to Chelsea Building Society, which recently merged with Yorkshire, and was based at its Cheltenham premises.
The laptop, which contained a substantial part of the Chelsea customer base, was recovered within 48 hours after Yorkshire appointed private investigators and forensic investigations revealed that none of the data had been accessed during that time, although there had been several attempts to do so.
The laptop was being used by a CBS employee who had been working from home and had given it, on request, to a manager who returned it to CBS’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.
“What’s more, the fact that the employee did not require all the information to carry out the task in hand created an unnecessary risk which could easily have been avoided; employees should only have access to information that is absolutely vital to work which is being carried out. I am pleased that the Yorkshire Building Society took such prompt and effective action and am satisfied that steps are now in place to prevent this happening again.”