A laptop containing the names and Social Security numbers of about 50,000 General Electric (GE) employees was stolen from a locked hotel room earlier this month.
The Fairfield, Conn. company said the employee handling the laptop was authorized to have the data, according to press reports from Reuters and other news organizations.
GE officials said the thief appeared to be after only the laptop and not the data on it, according to press reports.
GE began mailing letters earlier this week to affected employees, offering them a free year of credit monitoring service.
Russell Wilkerson, GE spokesperson, said the company has notified federal and state officials of the breach and is taking questions from affected personnel.
Portable device thefts gained nationwide notoriety in late May when a laptop containing the personal information of millions of veterans and active duty U.S. Armed Forces personnel was stolen from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs official.
That laptop was eventually recovered, and its data was not used for nefarious purposes.
David Taylor, vice president of data security strategies for Protegrity, told SCMagazine.com today that laptop thefts do not often become data thefts.
"What we find is that if you're smart enough to realize that what's really valuable is the data, you're not necessarily going to go after the laptop anyway," he said. "If you want to steal data, there are a lot better ways to do that, whether phishing attacks or getting the password of an employee."
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