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Wells Fargo fesses up to data loss

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At least one poor Hewlett Packard employee compromised by Fidelity's March laptop loss has now been told Wells Fargo lost his personal data, too.

The staffer received a note this week from Wells Fargo, saying the financial institution had lost a computer packed full of sensitive data such as customers' names, addresses, Social Security numbers and Wells Fargo mortgage loan account numbers, according to a document sent to The Register. Wells Fargo has admitted the loss, telling us that it affected a "relatively small percentage of Wells Fargo customers." The company, however, has millions of customers, so it's pretty tough to tell what a "small percentage" means.

The company said that, "a computer - being transported for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a division of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., by a global express shipping company between Wells Fargo facilities - has been reported as missing and may have been stolen. Wells Fargo said there is no indication that the information on the computer equipment has been accessed or misused. The computer has two layers of security, making it difficult to access the information."

To the company's credit, it confessed to the computer loss in short order. During a recent spate of laptop losses, Fidelity and Ernst & Young only admitted to losing data after being contacted by The Register. Fidelity lost data on 200,000 HP workers, and Ernst & Young's loss compromised Sun, IBM, BP, Cisco and Nokia employees.

Wells Fargo's statement, of course, does little to assuage the concerns of the staff who have seen financial services companies completely drop the ball where system security is concerned. In many cases, these are the same companies that advise clients on how to secure their products and how to be upfront about reporting breaches.

You can, for example, find an Ernst & Young executive here hyping up a USB security mechanism.

"The threat posed by USB devices is real and presents a major security challenge to companies everywhere," says one Mike Kelly, partner at Ernst and Young LLP.

Where does Kelly address the security threat that Ernst & Young poses?

Wells Fargo customers have received a one-year free subscription to a credit monitoring service. This has become the standard package offered by companies that have lost customer data. ®

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