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Ernst & Young laptop loss exposes 243,000 Hotels.com customers

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Exclusive Ernst & Young's laptop loss unit continues to be one of the company's more productive divisions. We learn this week that the accounting firm lost a system containing data on 243,000 Hotels.com customers. Hotels.com joins the likes of Sun Microsystems, IBM, Cisco, BP and Nokia, which have all had their employees' data exposed by Ernst & Young, as revealed here in a series of exclusive stories.

The Register can again exclusively confirm the loss of the Hotels.com customer information after having received a copy of a letter mailed out jointly by the web site and Ernst & Young. A Hotels.com spokesman also confirmed the data breach, saying Ernst & Young notified the company of the laptop loss on May 3. The laptop in question was stolen from an Ernst & Young worker's car in Texas and did have some basic data protection mechanisms such as, erm, the need for a password.

"Recently, Hotels.com was informed by its outside auditor, Ernst & Young, that one of Ernst & Young's employees had his laptop computer stolen," Hotels.com told its customers in the letter. "Unfortunately, the computer contained certain information about customer transactions with Hotels.com, and other sites through which we provide booking services directly to customers, from 2002 through 2004.

"This information may have included your name, address and some credit or debit card information you provided at that time."

Ernst & Young in February lost one laptop that held information on what's believed to be tens of thousands of Sun, IBM, Cisco, BP and Nokia employees. It's not clear if this was the same system in the Hotels.com incident. Ernst & Young has not returned our calls seeking comment and has been reluctant to provide information on these incidents in the past.

Ernst & Young in February also lost four laptops in Miami when its workers decided to leave their systems in a hotel conference room while they went out for lunch.

Major media outlets have so far ignored the Ernst & Young laptop incidents, although they were quick to follow on our confirmation of a Fidelity data breach that saw 200,000 HP workers have their information exposed.

Ernst & Young offers a variety of security services to customers, and encourages clients to be transparent with their policies around customer data issues. The company, however, has not exactly been proactive with regard to its own issues. ®

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