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Florida laptop loss sparks ID theft fears

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The theft of a laptop containing the unencrypted personal details of 133,000 Florida residents has sparked a major security alert. The PC was stolen from the car of a worker at Florida’s Department of Transportation, making it the latest in a spate of US organisations airing the private credentials of individuals in public.

The thief stole the Dell laptop after tampering with the lock of the SUV. Curiously a second laptop also left in the boot of the car was left behind, the Miami Herald reports. Data on the laptop had been encrypted, but this protection had been removed during a major network upgrade. The Miami-based agent had been working at home and hadn't resynchronised the laptop recently. Because of this a software upgrade that would have re-encrypted sensitive data hadn't been applied.

News of the theft emerged on Wednesday, two weeks after the laptop was nicked and five days after it emerged that the PC contained data including the social security numbers of thousands. Individuals whose information may have been exposed are to be sent warning letters. Data held on the laptop included the details of 86,670 driving license holders in the Miami area, information on 42,800 airline license holders throughout Florida and around 9,500 standard and commercial vehicle driving license holders in and around Tampa.

The data, if it fell into the wrong hands, could be used to apply for loans or credit cards under false names by identity thieves. It seems unlikely that those affected will be offered free fraud monitoring services but Florida’s Department of Transportation has set a hotline to deal with queries from concerned members of the public on 800-424-9071. The Department is offering a $10,000 reward for the safe return of the laptop. ®

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