A laptop used by emergency medical services (EMS) personnel went missing in
The computer had records of more than 28,000 people who had been cared by
County officials have said that it’s possible, but unlikely, that information in the laptop could be breached. There is no mention of whether the device was encrypted, so I’m guessing that your standard Windows logon username and password prompt is serving as protection. Furthermore, the county spent over $15,000 to print and mail letters to people who might be affected, as well as hiring a call center, a sign that they are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
Medical facilities need to follow certain regulations as defined by the HIPAA. Among the requirements, there is a specific provision to physically secure computers containing personal information. By taking the laptop out of the building, the
What happened to it, though, and if the information on the laptop is not encrypted, could it be accessed easily? (Yes.) If the laptop was not stolen, but somehow slid off the ambulance and went crashing into the road, could the contents be accessed as well? Well, there’s a good probability that the answer is yes. For starters, the laptop in question was a Panasonic Toughbook, which people tell me are pretty tough. I think I’ve seen advertisements where a tank ran over it. But you also have to consider that hard drives are pretty resilient. As long as a hard drive is not powered up, those things can take a pretty heavy beating. Ever drop an iPod and find it work? It might give that tell-tale death-click, but it will still work. For a while, anyway.
Information stored on a laptop can be accessed quite easily, no matter under what type of circumstances the device got stolen. Combine that with the fact that medical facilities usually deal with a lot of personal data (how could they not?), hence HIPAA, and you’ve got a situation where encryption of data makes a lot of sense. With a encryption service such as AlertBoot, where the entire contents of the laptop can be scrambled so unauthorized users cannot access it,