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09:25 AM

Tape Loss Stuns UK Retail Giant

It's a tale of the (stolen) tapes over at major British pharmacist Boots

By James Rogers, April 24, 2008, 5:25 PM

Major U.K. chemist (drug store) chain Boots has joined the growing list of organizations suffering an embarrassing storage snafu after tapes containing personal details of thousands of customers and employees were stolen.

The tapes, which were stolen from a security subcontractor’s car in the city of Bristol, contained the details of some 35,000 people, according to media reports. Boots has 1,500 stores in the U.K. and Ireland.

The records reportedly include the bank details of 27,000 customers of Boots’ dental service, which is operated by Medisure, as well as the personal details of some 8,000 Boots employees.

Neither Boots nor Medisure would respond to Byte and Switch requests for comment on the theft, which follows a string of headline-grabbing data breaches on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S. the Universities of Miami and Virginia recently suffered tape and laptop thefts, and the the Swedish armed forces were left reeling when a USB drive containing military secrets turned up at a public library earlier this year.

Lost tapes have been in the U.K. media spotlight since late last year, when Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government revealed that two disks containing personal details of 25 million people were lost by that country's equivalent of the IRS.

The information on Boots’ customers and employees was held on two tapes, according to a report in the U.K. Metro newspaper, which suggested that the data would not be easily accessible.

”The data on these tapes is technically complicated and only accessible with specialist IT equipment and software,” a Medisure spokeswoman told Metro. “ It was not stored on standard software or CDs and cannot be used on any home-style PC or laptop.”

Police officers from Bristol’s Avon & Somerset Constabulary are currently investigating the theft of the tapes.

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