Missing backup tapes spur encryption at Time Warner

Time Warner this week said it will "quickly" begin encrypting all data saved to backup tapes after 40 tapes with personal information on about 600,000 current and former employees were lost in transit to a storage facility.

The incident is among the biggest in a string of recent data-security mishaps that have also affected companies such as ChoicePoint, Bank of America and Reed Elsevier Group's LexisNexis Group unit.

A shipping container that held the 40 data tapes was lost on March 22 during a routine shipment to an off-site facility by records management and storage firm Iron Mountain, Time Warner spokeswoman Kathy McKiernan said. She wouldn't provide more details.

However, McKiernan did say Time Warner is trying to convince officials at Boston-based Iron Mountain to change some of their handling procedures. She declined to expand on the status of those discussions.

The US$42 billion New York-based media giant also said it has provided the affected employees with resources to monitor their credit reports. The lost tapes didn't include data about Time Warner customers, the company said.

Iron Mountain said it has had four incidents of tapes going missing this year. In late April, Ameritrade Holding in Omaha lost a data tape with the names of 200,000 clients. At the time, the company wouldn't disclose how the tapes were lost, but in an interview this week, Ameritrade CIO Asiff Hirji said that the tape fell off a conveyer belt in a shipping facility.

Hirji, who wouldn't identify the carrier, said that for "whatever reason," the shipper took "a bunch" of tapes out of its original secure box and placed them into another box. Sometime after that, the second box was damaged on the conveyer belt, and four tapes fell out.

"We found three," he said. "That other tape, I'm almost 100 percent sure, is somewhere in that facility -- probably in the rubbish bin. Or it has been destroyed in their lost and found. However, we can't take that chance. We have to assume it's lost and has gotten into nefarious hands. I'm not pointing fingers. I'm not deflecting blame. It's our responsibility."

Like Time Warner, Ameritrade is taking steps to protect the confidentiality of clients whose names and/or Social Security numbers were on the lost tape. For example, the company has stepped up monitoring to detect whether any identities have been compromised. So far, Hirji said, there has been no evidence of compromised data.

Hirji said Ameritrade is also looking at encrypting data on archive tapes and using shipping boxes that can't be opened so easily.

Melissa Burman, director of corporate communications at Iron Mountain, said her company has stepped up training of employees in the handling of sensitive data on tapes. "We're doing 5 million pickups and deliveries a year; that's a huge volume. We do have incidents from time to time," she said. "We will look at every opportunity we can to make incremental improvements in our process."

Moreover, Burman said, customers need to encrypt private information on their backup tapes.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Lucas Mearian

Lucas Mearian

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?