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IBM courier crashes. Sensitive tapes go AWOL

Can we have them back, please

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Add IBM to the growing list of ostensibly tech-savvy organizations that has been bitten by its failure to encrypt sensitive information.

A company spokesman has confirmed that computer tapes containing personal information on former employees has gone missing. An outside vendor was transporting them from one IBM facility to another on February 23. It seems there was a traffic accident, and in its aftermath, the tapes could no longer be located at the scene, spokesman Fred McNeese told the Associated Press. The tapes also contained information relating to customer accounts.

Word is just now leaking out because IBM's human resources department recently wrote letters to those whose information is missing. The company also advertised in a local paper seeking the return of the tapes.

It seems that encrypting sensitive information is a lot like flossing teeth. Despite the relative ease and undeniable benefits, many of us stubbornly refuse to get in the habit. (McNeese said some tapes were encrypted but others weren't.) Other organizations that have also famously flouted their better judgment include the Department of Veterans Affairs, which lost personal information relating to 28 million people, and TJX, whose failure to secure a wireless network and encrypt transactions allowed thieves to siphon 45.7 million credit and debit card numbers.

McNeese refused to say how many tapes were missing or how many employees and clients were affected. He said there is no indication any of the missing information has been exploited. ®

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