Council takes steps after laptop theft

THOUSANDS of pounds will be spent making safe information stored on computers at a Suffolk council after a laptop containing the private banking details of everybody on its payroll was stolen from the home of a senior officer.

THOUSANDS of pounds will be spent making safe information stored on computers at a Suffolk council after a laptop containing the private banking details of everybody on its payroll was stolen from the home of a senior officer.

Security fears were triggered in September after thieves made off with a laptop from the home of one of St Edmundsbury Borough Council's payroll officers.

It contained the unencrypted bank and national insurance details of 1,380 people connected with the council.

Suffolk police has been working with another police force outside of East Anglia in closing the net on the thieves.

The council yesterday refused to say what action - if any - has been taken in relation to the member of staff who had taken the laptop home.

But it has now emerged the council is considering investing thousands of pounds of taxpayers' cash on ensuring machines holding sensitive data are encrypted.

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Carrying out this work would cost £10,000 per 100 computers, according to the council.

The move to encrypt data comes amid recommendations by Parliament's Justice Committee for significant breaches of data privacy or loss of personal records to be treated as criminal offences.

Paul Farmer, cabinet member responsible for resources and efficiency, said: “In the light of the burglary we updated our security policy and are looking at investing in encrypting sensitive information and communication technology equipment. I think this is what any responsible authority would do.

“We always listen to, and where appropriate act upon, advice from Government or others.”

His views were echoed by the independent councillor David Nettleton, who said the council should focus on those staff with access to sensitive data, such as human resources and the chief executive's directorate, when installing encryption software.

He said if the expensive software was worth the money because keeping sensitive information secure was vital.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police confirmed the force was still investigating the laptop theft.