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July 1, 2006

Blood givers in Dallas in trouble

A few weeks ago the Veterans Administration reported a laptop containing sensitive information of over 26 million people. The laptop was found and the FBI said that the information hadn't been accessed. That is a relief since my name is one of the 26 million.

Just when people are starting to relax about that potential nightmare, it has been reported that the Red Cross is missing some laptops, three to be exact, which were taken from a locked closet.
A laptop containing personal information from thousands of blood donors _ including Social Security numbers and medical information _ was stolen from a local office of the American Red Cross, but officials said the information was encrypted.
WTF, over. The story also said there was no sign of forced entry. As if having your name and social security number compromised isn't enough, it appears that "...donors' sexual and disease histories" are among the data stored in the laptop.

The enraging thing about the article is that two other laptops disappeared in MAY (and reported missing a week later) but it wasn't until these laptops, one with sensitive information on it, was stolen that the security around this Red Cross branch "tightened up." This branch of the Red Cross has as lackadaisical an attitude towards sensitive information as the New York Times. But it gets worse:
Local officials alerted police and national Red Cross offices, Lundy said. Donors were not notified about the missing information, and the Red Cross had no legal obligation to do so.
But it gets even better, like getting an infection on a nasty looking cut:
The Farmers Branch Red Cross also lost a laptop with encrypted donor information in June 2005, Lundy said, but she could provide no details on circumstances of that incident or any follow-up investigation.
At least the VA stepped up and immediately sent out a press release, notified everyone in writing if they were on the list and is providing free credit monitoring for a year. The Red Cross isn't even handing out extra cookies and orange juice to the thousands of people who are potentially affected by this theft.

I hope people don't think twice about giving blood now. The Red Cross has a hard enough time getting AB blood without people wondering if their last bout with the clap is going public.

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