Building society on alert after laptop theft

Yorkshire Building Society said today that it was taking steps to improve its data security after an unencrypted laptop containing customers' details was stolen.

The laptop, which contained a substantial part of Chelsea Building Society's customer database, was stolen from the group's office in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on April 19 this year, shortly after the two mutuals had merged.



It was recovered within 48 hours after Yorkshire hired private investigators to assist police in tracking it down.



Forensic computer experts said none of the data on the computer had been accessed during the time it was missing, although there had been several attempts to do so.



The laptop had been used by a Chelsea employee who was working from home. The worker returned it to a manager, who then returned it to Chelsea's former head office in Cheltenham.



It was later discovered that the manager had written down the passwords to the computer and left them in a bag with the laptop under a desk overnight.



The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said today that it had found Yorkshire Building Society in breach of the Data Protection Act over the incident.



Mick Gorrill, head of enforcement at the ICO, said: "It is extremely concerning that an unencrypted laptop containing large amounts of personal data was left unsecured overnight, together with details of its passwords.



"What's more, the fact that the employee did not require all the information to carry out the task in hand created an unnecessary risk which could easily have been avoided."



But he added that Yorkshire had taken "prompt and effective action" to prevent a similar incident happening again.



Yorkshire said the incident happened shortly after it had completed its merger with the Chelsea on April 1, when it was still rolling out its "more rigorous security procedures" to the society.



The group has agreed to take a number of steps to improve its data security, including that all portable devices, such as laptops, are encrypted, a measure which is already in place at the Yorkshire, and that all staff are aware of the company's policies for the storage and use of personal data.



Staff will also only be given access to the type and amount of personal data necessary for their work.



A Yorkshire Building Society spokeswoman said: "Yorkshire Building Society takes its duty of care to its members very seriously and was in the process of rolling out the Yorkshire's more rigorous security procedures to the Chelsea at the time of the theft.



"The society took immediate and appropriate remedial action and, as the Information Commissioner's Office has acknowledged, there has been a full review of data security with new safeguards put in place to prevent a repeat of this incident."



Earlier this week Zurich Insurance was fined £2.28 million by the Financial Services Authority after losing personal details on 46,000 policyholders.



The data loss occurred in August 2008 when the South African branch of the company lost an unencrypted back-up tape during a routine transfer to a data storage centre, but Zurich UK did not learn about the incident until a year later.



The regulator has previously fined Nationwide £980,000 for data security failings after a laptop containing customer details was stolen from an employee's home.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice