Yorkshire Building Society loses customers’ details on unencrypted laptop

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has found Yorkshire Building Society (YBS) in breach of the Data Protection Act after an unencrypted laptop belonging to the former Chelsea Building Society (CBS), which had recently merged with YBS, was stolen from its Cheltenham premises. The laptop contained a substantial part of the CBS customer database.

The laptop was recovered within 48 hours after YBS 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.

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.

Mick Gorrill, Head of Enforcement at the ICO, said: “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.”

Iain Cornish, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Building Society 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 (a measure that is already in place at1YBS), 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.

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