County workers' data on stolen laptop

October 12, 2007

By Keith Ervin, Seattle Times staff reporter

The King County Transportation Department has informed 1,400 current and former employees that a laptop computer containing personal information about them has been stolen.

Workers' names, addresses and Social Security numbers were on the password-protected laptop, which was stolen during a Sept. 28 home burglary. The information was not encrypted, department spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok said Thursday.

The laptop was taken from the home of a Transportation Department human-resources employee while the employee was traveling outside the country, Ogershok said. The employee routinely carries the laptop from one work site to another.

Transportation officials learned of the theft Oct. 1 and, after determining what information was on the computer, sent letters to current and former employees Oct. 3 advising them of the incident.

The affected employees work or worked in the Roads, Airport and Fleet divisions. Managers have held meetings with employees to discuss steps they can take to protect themselves from possible identity theft. The county will provide free credit monitoring for one year, Ogershok said.

County Executive Ron Sims' office has been following the incident closely and is working with managers and union representatives to better protect workers' privacy in the future, said spokeswoman Annie Kolb-Nelson. She said it hasn't been decided whether the best approach is to encrypt information, keep personal information off portable computers, or adopt new guidelines on taking sensitive computers home.

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