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200,000 HP staff exposed as laptop loss party continues

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Financial services companies appear to have it in for their technology customers with Fidelity Investments adding to a spate of laptop thefts.

A laptop lost by Fidelity this month has exposed 196,000 current and former HP employees, staff were told last night.

"This is to let you know that Fidelity Investments, record-keeper for the HP retirement plans, recently had a laptop computer stolen that contained personal information about you, including your name, address, social security number and compensation," employees learned via email.

Fidelity has also set up a web site that "includes some immediate steps that you can take to protect yourself, as well as information about how to enroll for a 12-month period of credit monitoring at no cost to you and a Fidelity call center number in case you have additional questions."

Now that's service.

The latest leak follows a string of laptop losses by Ernst & Young that exposed information on Sun Microsystems, Cisco and IBM employees.

Ernst & Young has provided a similar service to Fidelity, although the auditing firm was a bit less proactive with its laptop losses. A single laptop containing information on the Sun, Cisco and IBM workers went missing, and Ernst & Young waited close to two months to inform some of the employees about the loss. This information was revealed here in a string of exclusive stories.

Ernst & Young had another four laptops stolen from a Miami conference room when its workers left their kit in the room as they went out for lunch.

We've since learned that Ernst & Young pushed forward a company-wide rollout of encryption software made by Pointsec. Employees were ordered to install the software on March 9, according to two sources.

Ernst & Young has declined numerous requests for additional comment on the laptop thefts other than to say it believes encryption software is keeping the stolen data safe. The company will not say if anyone has been held accountable for leaving their laptops unguarded.

At least on paper, Fidelity seems to be taking its breach more seriously than Ernst & Young. The company sent us a detailed statement about the situation.

"At this time, we are unaware of any misuse of the information contained in the software on the laptop," said Fidelity spokeswoman Anne Crowley. "The application was running on a temporary license from a third-party software vendor. The license has expired. Since the expiration of the license, the scrambled data would be difficult to interpret and generally unusable.

"We have taken steps to implement extra security processes requiring additional authentication for access to those HP accounts as well as other measures to prevent unauthorized use. We have also employed additional security controls above and beyond our already significant monitoring activity to identify if there is any unusual activity in these accounts. Further, we have reviewed activity in the HP accounts and have found no indication of unusual or suspicious activity."

HP has not returned a call seeking comment. ®

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