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M&S in ID theft flap over stolen laptop

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Marks & Spencer has become the latest large organisation embroiled in an identity theft-related security flap.

A laptop containing salary details, addresses, dates of birth, national insurance and phone numbers of some 26,000 employees has been stolen from a printing firm, which was tasked with the job of writing to workers about pension changes. M&S wrote to all staff whose names were on the laptop, warning them of the risk and offering free credit checks as a result.

It's unclear if any of the data has fallen into the hands of crooks. It may be the thief was just an opportunist looking for free hardware.

News of the theft, which emerged over the weekend, follows similar security flaps at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, Nationwide Building Society, the Metropolitan Police, Serco, and others.

Security firms were quick to point to the latest theft as another reason to use disk encryption in order to protect sensitive data. PGP Corporation spokesman Jamie Cowper said: "Staff and customers are increasingly concerned about the possibility of identity theft, and the offending company suffers not only high financial costs, but also risks enormous damage to their brand in the aftermath of a breach.

"Encryption and proper authorisation controls are quickly becoming essential measures for the protection of sensitive customer and employee data - companies need to realise this before legislation in this area drives greater punishment."

In other information security breach news, HM Revenue and Customs has apologised after sending the bank details of other claimants to punters applying for tax credits. It blamed a printer cock-up for the security snafu. Those affected were notified by letter last week. Many of those affected live in Northern Ireland, the BBC reports. ®

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