Bank alert as details of 10,000 files stolen
TWO separate investigations are under way into the theft of laptops containing sensitive personal information about 10,000 Bank of Ireland customers.
The four computers were stolen last year, but Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes was only informed of the disappearance on Friday.
The Irish Independent has learned that one of the laptops was stolen from a bank branch. The three others were taken from cars.
Mr Hawkes last night said he was investigating the incident as "a matter of urgency".
The laptops contained information about medical backgrounds, life assurance, bank account details, names and addresses of up to 10,000 Bank of Ireland customers.
The Bank of Ireland confirmed the laptops were stolen between June and October 2007. It claimed the theft was only brought to the attention of the "appropriate authorities" in the bank over the "past number of weeks".
Mr Hawkes said: "We were told about this incident on Friday and given preliminary information. We've asked for further information and will be investigating this situation further."
The Financial Regulator is also investigating the robbery.
The theft has sparked a major security scare at the bank.
And it raises serious questions about the safety of confidential personal information given to financial institutions by customers. In a statement the bank said: "The thefts of the laptops were only brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities in the bank in the past number of weeks. A full internal investigation is under way."
The computers contained information on 10,000 life assurance customers. The data was not encrypted although it is understood there was software security installed on the stolen computers.
Bank of Ireland said it was planning to contact all of the customers affected.
And the bank added: "In the interim the bank has monitored all of these customer accounts and can confirm that there has been no evidence of fraudulent or suspicious activity.
"Bank of Ireland regrets any concerns that this incident will cause to customers and is committed to moving as quickly as possible to allay these concerns."
The bank will today begin the embarrassing process of letting customers know they were exposed by the theft.
In 2005, the bank admitted to mistakenly overcharging 65,000 customers up to €15m in payment protection insurance -- cover that repays customers' loans if they cannot meet repayments due to permanent disability, redundancy or death.