Stolen laptops cause data breach for Coca-Cola

Jan 27th, 2014 / Category: Enterprise Mobility

Access to information is essential for day-to-day tasks across industries. With the increase of bring-your-own-device policies, remote working options and big data collection, the importance of convenient, secure information access has never been more pressing. Employees often need to refer to company data from outside of the workplace, and clients and corporations depend on the security and privacy of their information. Cybersecurity concerns have dominated the news lately, but a recent incident points to an equally compromising threat: lost or stolen equipment can create massive data security headaches.

Coca-Cola reports 74,000 affected by laptop data breach
On January 24, Coca-Cola announced that personal information of up to 74,000 former and current employees had been compromised when laptops were stolen from its company headquarters in Atlanta, The Wall Street Journal reported. Although Coca-Cola's policy requires laptops to be encrypted, the stolen laptops had not yet been protected at the time they were stolen, the source said, adding that the exposed data included Social Security numbers, names, driver license numbers and other personal information used by human resources employees.

This data breach demonstrates that companies need to be on their guard even if they have strong security protocols in place.

"There's nothing in the company's background that would say it's lax about information security,'' Thomas Haynes, a former Coke general counsel for North America and ex-president of the Coke bottler association, told The Journal.

In fact, the source noted that Coca-Cola is known for being particularly careful about information security. As Tech World pointed out, this incident demonstrates that breaches are about keeping physical equipment secure, not just preventing hackers.

Data breaches are costly even if information isn't abused
Even though Coca-Cola's data breach impacted only employees, not customers, and hasn't resulted in any known identity abuses to date, any exposure of sensitive information has significant costs for businesses. The Journal reported that Coca-Cola had to bring in extra crews, including on holidays and weekends, to analyze the extent of the breach. Then, to address employees' concerns, it offered one year of identity-theft protection services. Like other companies, Coca-Cola has also been observed for the way it responds to information security problems, and missteps could erode trust with workers, partners or customers.

Unfortunately, data breaches like this can be difficult to prevent, even with cybersecurity precautions.

"What happened at Coca-Cola is a bad thing but not an uncommon thing," said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute, in a later Wall Street Journal article.

The article explained that more than half of Fortune 1,000 companies have confidential records exposed every year.

Secure file sharing solutions can help guard against data breaches
Even though Coca-Cola has a sound security policy in place, this event shows that it takes only a few lapses to put sensitive information at risk. Corporations can improve their security by implementing enterprise-wide solutions for file sharing. These options can keep information safe by storing it on secure servers. Relying only on encryption is risky because employees sometimes skip the step or IT services fall behind in securing equipment.

A more reliable option is wide area file services (WAFS). WAFS facilitate information sharing and access, even from remote locations. Therefore, employees can have instant access to data even if they're traveling or in an area with poor internet connectivity. By locking files, the service prevents workers from writing over each other's work.

Perhaps most importantly, solutions like WAFS add extra protection to company information by storing data in a secure, central location. With this option, current and past versions of uncorrupted files are safeguarded, and administrators can securely retrieve or move files according to need.