BP employee loses laptop containing data on 13,000 oil spill claimants

Names, social security numbers, addresses other personal data potentially compromised

The personal information of 13,000 individuals who had filed compensation claims with BP after last year's disastrous oil spill may have been potentially compromised after a laptop containing the data was lost by a BP employee.

The information, which had been stored in an unencrypted fashion on the missing computer, included the names, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth of those who filed claims related to the Deepwater Horizon accident.

BP said in a statment that the personal information had been stored in a spreadsheet maintained by the company for the purposes of tracking claims arising from the accident. "The lost laptop was immediately reported to law enforcement authorities and BP security, but has not been located despite a thorough search," BP said on Tuesday.

The information was part of a claims process that was implemented before BP had established its Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

The statement makes no mention of when the laptop was reported as lost. But an Associated Press report quoting a BP spokesman notes that the laptop was lost on March 1 by an employee while on routine business travel.

The spokesman is quoted as saying that BP waited nearly a month to notify victims of the breach because it was doing "due diligence and investigating."

BP said the missing laptop is equipped with a security capability that allows security administrators to remotely disable the computer "under certain circumstances." However the company offered no further details on what those circumstances might be or whether it has actually disabled the system so far.

"Because this investigation and search for the missing laptop is ongoing, we are unable to provide additional detail that might jeopardize our investigation efforts," the company said.

BP has sent written notices to victims informing them about the potential compromise of their personal information and to offer them free credit monitoring services, the statement noted.

The BP compromise is only the latest in a very long list of similar breaches involving the loss of unencrypted personal data stored on laptops, and mobile storage devices.

Such losses have prompted have prompted Massachusetts to pass a law mandating the need for companies to encrypt sensitive personal data stored on mobile devices.

Although numerous encryption technologies are readily available these days to mitigate the risk, many companies still don't use them.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

Read more about data security in Computerworld's Data Security Topic Center.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags BPdata securitysecuritydata protectionprivacy

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?