Laptops theft

PUBLISHED: 10:58 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:47 06 May 2010

SIR – Like many other people, I received a letter from Daniel Goodwin, the chief executive of St Albans City and District Council. The letter advised that after the theft of a laptop from the council offices containing postal voting data, including signa

SIR - Like many other people, I received a letter from Daniel Goodwin, the chief executive of St Albans City and District Council.

The letter advised that after the theft of a laptop from the council offices containing postal voting data, including signatures, the UK's fraud prevention services have been engaged to provide protection against misuse of the personal information that was stolen.

This involves special checks for a minimum of 12 months on any application for credit or insurance based services by all those with postal votes.

The letter goes on that this may cause some delay while checks are made - that must cost money.

The checks seem intrusive and involve the use of the agency to prevent money laundering and a long list of other activities - in other words another free rein to distribute our personal information among a whole chain of unspecified people for unspecified reasons. Whilst I have nothing to hide I have every reason to presume that incompetence begets incompetence. Do these people also keep our personal data on unencrypted laptops?

This inevitably costs a small fortune, funded by the tax payer, and involves additional time and effort by, and with some inconvenience to, innocent people due to ineptitude by our council. I would like to know how much we are paying.

I am also keen to know from the council's senior management what important services must be cut to cover this. I am not impressed with the incompetence of elements of this council - I had grounds to write to the council about their erroneously cutting down trees in Tassel Hall recently.

That work was unchecked and the remedial work promised by Mr Goodwin quite some time ago has not been implemented.

We do pay handsomely for these people to do their jobs, and for the most senior very handsomely indeed. Further they in effect only have between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of the responsibility of a CEO in the wealth generating sectors of society.

Council senior managers have no market forces to contend with, no competition for their services and therefore only have the administrative part of a full job.

I do expect better and more competent delivery of their responsibilities. In the economically generative part of the economy (the private sector) people lose their jobs when they fail. If senior council employees wish to have remuneration packages to match the private sector then they need to perform a lot better. Let's hope that this council does not have to reschedule too much money to cover its own ineptitude - there is utterly no defensible excuse for storing important data on unencrypted laptops in the first place.

Platitudes and formulaic responses will be graciously accepted from the council.

JOHN DAVIE

Tassell Hall, Redbourn

SIR - There are two major issues involved in this theft: first, the lack of adequate measures in place to prevent computers in the council's offices being stolen, irrespective of the information held on them.

The question arises whether the thief knew that confidential information was held on one of them.

The second major issue is that one of the laptops did have confidential information on it.

Chief executive Daniel Goodwin's letter is taken up wholly with explaining to residents the measures that have been and are being taken to protect people affected from the fraudulent activities if someone accesses the personal information on one of the laptops and that it is to be commended.

However, astonishingly, nowhere does Mr Goodwin mention any steps taken or being taken to deal with the fundamental issue of weaknesses in his security policy, procedures and practices, which must be fundamental in view of the seriousness of the theft. It was the weaknesses in these areas that made the theft possible in the first place.

Can he explain why he has not touched on the second issue and why he has not summarised the outcome of the internal review?

Are there clear lines of responsibility and accountability laid down in the council and have they been breached or was there a weak system of security and, if so, on which person does the responsibility fall?

We live in a democracy and transparency is the basic underpinning of a democratic council.

These are serious issues and weaken the level of confidence and trust that residents now have in the ability of executives, including Mr Goodwin, to handle simple issues of security, particularly having regard to the warnings we have all had because of major breaches of security of confidential information held in the public services during this last two years.

BRIAN HANKS

Clarence Road, St Albans


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Herts Advertiser. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Herts Advertiser