State reports another theft of personal data

June 25, 2007

By Laura A. Bischoff, Staff Writer

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation disclosed Monday that a laptop was stolen nearly a month ago containing Social Security numbers and other personal data on 439 injured workers.

The BWC disclosure comes on the heels of news that a back-up data tape with personal information on more than 400,000 Ohioans was stolen from a part-time intern's car earlier this month. The BWC laptop was stolen from the home of bureau auditor May 30 in Columbus.

It wasn't until Gov. Ted Strickland ordered state agencies to beef up their data security policies on June 15 that BWC security officials started to review what personal data may have been on the laptop. BWC Administrator Marsha Ryan wasn't told about the laptop theft until June 15.

"Clearly, the sense of urgency was not there," BWC spokesman Keary McCarthy said.

BWC Auditor Nine Twitty had left the laptop in her attached garage when it was stolen. She audits self-insured employers and had pulled files on 439 injured workers from 24 companies to spot check them for accuracy, McCarthy said. Self-insured employers are large companies that privately manage their own workers' compensation claims.

BWC determined that Social Security numbers, claim numbers, workers' names, date of injury, amount of workers' compensation received, and possibly the medical diagnosis associated with the injury. Other than the Social Security numbers, all this data had been public records until legislators passed a law last year shielding the information.

Last year there were 167,000 workers compensation claims filed in Ohio.

"Securing the integrity of digital information is critically important no matter how many or how few individuals are affected," Ryan said. "The recent theft of a storage device and the executive order signed by Gov. Ted Strickland heightened everyone's sense of awareness about this important issue."

BWC is notifying employers and injured workers and offering free identity theft protection services to the workers through Debix.

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