Theft of laptop puts thousands of identities at risk

Thieves take a U.S. Department of Transportation notebook with personal information on 133,000 Florida residents.

Joris Evers Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Joris Evers covers security.
Joris Evers
A U.S. Department of Transportation laptop with personal information on 133,000 Florida residents has been stolen, exposing the data to identity fraud.

The computer was taken from a government-owned vehicle on July 27 in the Miami area, the agency said in a statement Wednesday. The password-protected laptop was assigned to a special agent in the Miami arm of the department's Office of Inspector General, it said.

While the laptop did not contain financial or medical information, four databases with identifiable information were stored on it. The details included names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and addresses in databases covering holders of Florida pilot's and driver's licenses, both commercial and personal.

The databases were being used in an investigation into the use of fraudulent information to obtain commercial driver's or pilot's licenses, the Department of Transportation said.

There is no indication that the thief or thieves took the computer because of its contents. Still, steps are being taken to protect and inform Florida residents and to recover the laptop, the agency said.

The incident is the latest in a long string of data security breaches. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is still recovering from the theft of a laptop and external hard disk drive that exposed the identities of 26.5 million veterans. Others that have lost such data include the Metropolitan State College in Denver, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Los Angeles' Department of Social Services.