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!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucas Mearian

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?