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Gas customers' details stolen

BORD GAIS Energy last night admitted a stolen laptop containing the confidential bank information of 75,000 customers "should have been encrypted but it wasn't".

The 75,000 affected customers who had recently moved from the ESB in the company's 'Big Switch' campaign have been advised to monitor their bank accounts for criminal activity.

Concern over a separate stolen Health Service Executive (HSE) laptop also escalated after it was confirmed the computer contained sensitive information from a social worker's case notes on nine families.

The failure to ensure all its laptops were encrypted -- despite an assurance to the Data Commissioner last September -- is expected to result in a legal notice being service on the HSE.

The Bord Gais laptop was one of four stolen from its offices on Foley Street in Dublin last Friday week.

Gardai said last night they were satisfied there was no sinister aspect to the burglary and the burglars were not aware that one of the laptops contained sensitive information.

David Bunworth, managing director of Bord Gais, said that the company had a "very aggressive encryption programme".

However, he confirmed one of the laptops containing data on customers was not encrypted "but quite severely password coded".

"The laptop should have been encrypted but it wasn't," he said. "We regret this immeasurably."

"Our biggest concern is the customer information which is lost and we apologise for this.

"These 75,000 have given their bank details and they are the ones we are concerned about at the moment," he said.

He said a risk-management company was "currently assessing the risk" and advising the company on how to future safeguard customers' information.

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"Every laptop is now encrypted," he said.


A statement issued last night by Bord Gais said the company did not publicise the incident sooner "as it may have hampered the investigation".

"Over the coming days, Bord Gais Energy will be in direct contact with all affected customers," the statement said.

Local youths are believed by gardai to have been responsible for what detectives described as "an opportunistic break-in". Gardai think the laptops were stolen for sale on the streets at reduced prices.

Officers also said they were not involved in the decision to delay an announcement publicly about the theft. Gary Davis, deputy Data Protection Commissioner, said there was "no reason to believe the information has fallen into the wrong hands".

"If it falls into the hands of a particular fraudster, it (the information) might be enough to apply for a credit card or a loan," he said.

Meanwhile, the HSE revealed details of social worker's notes on one of 15 laptops stolen from its offices in Roscommon town.

A spokesman said last night all the families and individuals would be informed and offered a personal briefing with HSE staff today.

"The HSE deeply regrets any upset caused to the individuals affected by this robbery and appeals to those who stole the laptops to return them to any garda station," he added.

"The HSE takes the issue of data protection extremely seriously. At any time there are 5,400 active laptops in the HSE -- so far, 91pc have been encrypted."

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