COLUMBUS, Ohio – A data storage device with the Social Security numbers and other personal information on all 64,000 Ohio state employees was stolen from a state intern's car last weekend, Gov. Ted Strickland said Friday.
"I don't mean to alarm people unnecessarily," Strickland said. "There's no reason to believe a breach of information has occurred."
He said it takes special equipment to access the information on the device, so he doesn't believe the workers' privacy is in jeopardy.
Strickland said an Office of Budget and Management intern assigned to an interagency computer project mistakenly left the disk, a backup, in a vehicle parked outside an apartment Sunday. The intern, who informed his supervisor of the theft Monday, is being investigated, the governor said.
Strickland said he was not allowed to specifically describe the computer device, or other details surrounding the theft, under direction from law enforcement investigating the theft.
It was just the latest case of personal information on thousands of employees disappearing or being inappropriately accessed. Several universities, corporations and even the Veterans Affairs Department have reported lost or stolen data.
In the Ohio case, Strickland said the state would provide employees access to free identity protection services for the next year, a cost he estimated at about $660,000.
He also issued an executive order to change state procedures for handling such data.
Under protocol in place since 2002, a first backup storage device is kept at a temporary work site for a state office along with the computer system that holds all the employee information, and a second backup device is given to employees on a rotating basis to take home for safekeeping, officials said.
Strickland said it was inappropriate for an intern to be designated that responsibility, and he ordered an end to the practice of employees taking the devices home. State Budget Director Pari Sabety said the device now would be stored in another location in a locked, fireproof box.