Information commissioner warns Alzheimer's Society after personal data is stolen

Charity signs formal undertaking to improve security after theft of laptops with details of 1,000 employees

The Alzheimer's Society has signed a formal undertaking with the Information Commissioner's Office promising to improve its data security after the theft of several unencrypted laptops containing the  personal details of 1,000 staff.

The laptops, which contained employees' names, addresses, national insurance numbers and salaries, were not protected by cable locks or securely stored at the charity's Cardiff regional office when it was burgled in August.

It was one of three separate breaches of the Data Protection Act reported by the society to the ICO in 2009.

"This is unacceptable," said Sally-anne Poole, head of investigations at the ICO. "Portable devices must be encrypted if they are used to store personal information.

"We are aware that the laptops were due to be encrypted and I am pleased that the society has taken action to guard against security breaches of this nature in future."

The laptops had been returned to the office for encryption when they were stolen. Staff had not received any formal data-protection training.

The ICO warned that further breaches could lead to criminal prosecution and a fine of up to £500,000.

Ruth Sutherland, acting chief executive of the society, said: "We are deeply disappointed that these breaches have occurred.

"The society takes information security very seriously and as soon as we found out about the thefts we reported them to the ICO. All staff affected and everyone who works at the society were also immediately informed.

"All senior managers have now been trained in data management and this is due to be offered to all staff in the coming months."

A society spokeswoman said she was not aware of any staff suffering personal loss as a result of the data theft.

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