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1/29/2010
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Personal Data Of 77,000 At Risk As Data Is Lost In Alaska

PricewaterhouseCoopers under the gun as state government seeks records lost in legal case

A snafu in an Alaska legal case appears to have resulted in the loss of records containing personal information of more than 77,000 Alaskans, according to news reports.

Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan announced Thursday that there has been a "massive security breach" reaching the highest levels of state government, according to reports by KTUU, a local NBC TV news affiliate.

While current and former state employees are calling to find out if their data is among the records lost, neither the state government nor the contractor that held the records -- PricewaterhouseCoopers -- knows where the data went, the reports say.

Among those at risk are Sullivan himself, as well as Alaska governor Sean Parnell and more than 77,000 other Alaskans who were participants in the Public Employees' Retirement System and the Teachers' Retirement System in 2003 and 2004, KTUU reports.

"In this case the information that we're concerned of is names, dates of birth, and social security numbers," Sullivan said.

In the process of an ongoing lawsuit against the state's former actuary, Mercer, a law firm turned over the personal information to the state's financial experts, PricewaterhouseCoopers, a private firm that was evaluating the list as part of the lawsuit, KTUU reports.

In early December, PricewaterhouseCoopers realized the names and numbers could not be found, the report says. But it wasn't until last week that it told the state there might be a problem.

"Well, let's just say when I heard about it and understood when they originally knew about it, that it wasn't -- we weren't pleased, and the initial phone call from me to senior officials at PricewaterhouseCoopers wasn't very pleasant," Sullivan told KTUU.

There's no evidence of any identity theft, the report says, but the state does not know who, if anyone, has the information.

"To be honest we're hoping that the firm that misplaced this finds it," Sullivan told KTUU.

In the meantime, the attorney general and PricewaterhouseCoopers have reached a settlement. The firm will pay for identity theft protection and credit monitoring for each of the 77,000 Alaskans who are potentially affected by the failure.

Charles Gerdts, general counsel for PricewaterhouseCoopers, released a statement, saying, "The firm regrets that the information was misplaced while under our control, and has made a significant commitment in reaching this resolution expeditiously."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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