Theft of surgeon's laptop causes data breach

Aug 02nd, 2013 / Category: Managed File Transfer

It is no longer uncommon for professionals in just about every sector to take their work with them when they go home, or even when they travel. A host of modern technologies have made it possible for workers to remain connected to one another and their employers and to be productive at virtually all times.

But there are dangers associated with this trend. As more laptops, tablets and smartphones are taken out of the offices, the chances for these devices to become lost or stolen increase dramatically, with potentially devastating results.

This risk recently came to pass, as a surgeon who was on vacation had his laptop stolen, causing a serious data breach.

Island access
The Oregonian reported that a surgeon from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) went on vacation to Hawaii, bringing along his laptop. This laptop, which contained a significant amount of patient data, was subsequently stolen.

As a result, OHSU was forced to contact more than 4,000 patients, alerting them of the breach. Among the potentially exposed information were Social Security numbers, surgical histories, names and ages, the news source reported.

"Based on our analysis of the kind of data on the computer, we believe there is little to no ID theft risk for almost all the patients involved," said Ronald Marcum, OHSU's chief privacy officer, The Oregonian reported.

However, the news source pointed out that OHSU will offer all of those whose Social Security numbers were potentially exposed free identity theft monitoring as a precaution.

Providing security
There are two key takeaways from this incident. First, employees, including those in the healthcare sector, are increasingly striving to perform work even while vacationing, and to this end they rely on laptops and other mobile devices. Secondly, in many cases, these devices are insufficiently protected, putting the sensitive information contained therein at risk of exposure.

It is no longer feasible for organizations to simply forbid their employees from engaging in this behavior, as such flexibility and mobility is now seen as standard in most industries. Efforts to ban remote work are likely to be ignored by many, perhaps even most, employees.

The best option, consequently, is for businesses to invest in high-quality secure file sharing solutions that are easy to use and reliable. By providing these tools to employees, firms can give their workers the resources they need to work remotely without putting the organization's data at risk.