21 April 2008

Customer Data stolen from the Bank of Ireland

There is a saying that one scandal comes seldom alone. Well, after the immense blunder at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin (see entry below) that came to light earlier today, a second one emerged tonight, involving the Bank of Ireland.

According to Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes (photo) very sensitive information concerning about 10,000 customers of the Bank of Ireland has been stolen.

Mr. Hawkes told RTÉ that he is investigating the disappearance of four laptop computers which were stolen already last year. But for reasons yet unknown the Commissioner was only informed about the theft on Friday.

The missing laptops were being used by staff working for the Bank of Ireland's life assurance division. They contained information about medical backgrounds, life assurance details, bank account details, names and addresses of about 10,000 customers. Apparently there was software security on the stolen computers, but the sensitive information was not encrypted.

Mr. Hawkes said he was "investigating the case as a matter of urgency", which is not more than can be expected. The Data Protection Commissioner added that his inquiry will focus on the security measures in relation to the computers and on the information they contained.

The Bank of Ireland, which has confirmed the theft, is now planning to inform customers. Well, is this not very kind of the bank? If I were one of their customers (which I am not), I would ring them first thing in the morning and raise merry hell. What the heck are they playing at?

Sensitive customer information is stolen, and they just sit and sleep on the matter for months, before they even do their basic duty and inform the Data Protection Commissioner. And how is it possible that this happened in the first place? What about internal security? If one computer is stolen, one might see that as an unfortunate matter. But four?! This looks more like an organised job.

And only now, after months of doing nothing, they will inform the effected customers. This is the real scandal in this case! We have seen in recent months a lot of reports about malfunctioning of major banks, who lost hundreds of billions due to imprudent investments and outright idiotic speculations. Who is footing the bill for all that? The banks and their shareholders? Oh no. They only take the big profits in good years. Now that there is a crisis, it is you and me and everyone who will pay for it, through higher interest rates, higher mortgage costs and, first and foremost, through our taxes, since the governments have to bail out the banks and saving them from going bust.

Even though I am not a Bank of Ireland customer, I am extremely annoyed by this news and urge anyone effected by the case to make strong representations to the bank, to your local TD, and also to the Financial Regulator, whose job it is to keep control of the banking sector.

The Emerald Islander

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