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Medical Excess loses records on 1m customers

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Health insurance firm Medical Excess one-upped the laptop loss crowd by forking over an entire server with personal information on close to 1m people.

Medical Excess - an AIG company - began notifying customers this month that a break in at one of its offices has resulted in the the theft of a camera, two laptops and a file server. That server happened to contain the names, birth dates and social security numbers of 970,000 people. Even worse, some individuals have had their medical and disability information compromised by the theft.

"The investigation following the theft of the server was quite complicated because data that was equal to one hundred million typewritten pages was stored on the server, much of which had to be manually reviewed," Medical Excess wrote to customers, in a letter obtained by The Register.

"As a result of our investigation, we believe that your name, Social Security number and birthday may have been included in a file saved on the stolen server. We are notifying you about this incident so that you can take action should someone misuse the stolen data."

Medical Excess has moved to reassure customers by saying the server was password protected and adding that it doesn't think the information has been misused. Those who notice strange activity on their financial statements will also receive free access to "a toolkit of resources and hands-on support."

Just lovely.

EMC was one of the companies affected by the theft, The Register, has learned. A note sent by EMC to US employees notes that the server "may have contained information on nearly one million individuals from perhaps thousands of employers."

Medical Excess didn't bother to notify EMC about the problem. Instead, EMC workers began calling HR on Monday to ask what was up with the funny letters they were receiving from Medical Excess in the mail.

This data loss builds on a spate of recent laptop thefts that have affected workers at HP, Sun Microsystems, IBM, BP, Nokia, Cisco and others.

The rising number of thefts and companies' inability to properly protect their data has started the inevitable discussion as to whether or not Congress needs to step in with harsh penalties for these types of incidents. ®

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