Everybody who works for the State of Ohio has been on edge about this, because Governor Strickland announced on Friday that our data has been stolen. Below, I’ve pasted the story from Saturday’s Columbus Dispatch, which was what stared out at me from a newspaper vend box Saturday afternoon on my way back from Tim Horton’s and the post office.
Yesterday morning, Gov. Ted Strickland told state employees that their names and Social Security numbers were on a computer back-up tape stolen Sunday from a state intern’s unlocked car.
Late last night, the governor announced that information about their dependents and other personal data may be on the tape if the employees also participated in the state’s pharmacy benefits management program.
Strickland’s office said it is likely other personal data will be found, and the governor is asking the Ohio inspector general to investigate the theft and the state’s response for an independent assessment.
“We will continue this ongoing review and if additional personal information is confirmed to be on the missing data device we will make that information available as we know it,” Strickland said in a news release.
The governor called a news conference yesterday to announce that the back-up tape had been stolen Sunday night, and that it had been determined the tape contained the names and Social Security numbers of all 64,467 state workers. Although the governor said a review was continuing, he and other state officials said they were confident there was no other personal information on the tape.
But the governor’s office issued a news release at 11:14 p.m. saying it had been told that information about participants in the state’s pharmacy benefits management program – including information such as names, social security numbers, addresses and phone numbers of the employees and the names and social security numbers of their dependents – may be on the device.
Budget Director J. Pari Sabety said she doesn’t think medical information is on the tape, but the review continues.
Strickland is telling state workers and their families that it’s highly unlikely that a thief would have the knowledge or equipment to be able to retrieve the data on the tape.
“We have no reason to believe that there has been any breach of security at this time, and we think it is unlikely that a breach would occur,” said Strickland said at his news conference.
The governor also has announced that all state workers will be offered free identity-theft prevention and protection services for a year at an estimated cost to the state of $660,000.
But state workers and others were left yesterday asking how such sensitive information could have been sent home with a 22-year-old intern, who was hired March 5 at $10.50 an hour, and why it took the state four days to announce it.
The union representing 36,000 state employees called the incident “inexcusable” on its blog, saying it “has put state employees’ privacy and financial situations in jeopardy.”
Peter Wray, spokesman for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, said all state workers now “need to be concerned and take wise steps. … It’s too risky in our society to think, ‘It’s not going to happen to me.’ They should take it quite seriously.”
State officials said the data were stored on a second network backup storage device at a temporary project office for the Ohio Administrative Knowledge System, the state’s new $158 million payroll and accounting system.
The backup tape was sent home with Jared A. Ilovar, who was hired to work on the new system, to keep off-site as a precaution if the original data were destroyed or damaged.
Ilovar was one of four state workers who took backup data home on a rotating basis; interns also have been used in the past because of staffing shortages, said Ron Sylvester, a spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services. That policy was adopted in April 2002.
Sylvester noted that Ilovar, who expects to graduate this fall or next spring with a degree from DeVry University in Columbus, has computer-network skills and training.
But Ilovar apparently left the tape in his unlocked car in the parking lot for his Hilliard apartment. The theft, reported to Hilliard police at 12:43 p.m. Monday, occurred between 8 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday.
Hilliard Sgt. James M. Redmond said the break-in appears to have been a random act and noted that two other cars were broken into at the same complex.
Ilovar’s Facebook.com entry for Thursday says, “Jared is very scared.” The entry for yesterday: “Jared is valuing his friends above all else.” Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
State Budget Director J. Pari Sabety said yesterday morning that it took several days to determine the extent of the problem because nearly 339,000 files in more than 24,000 folders on a duplicate tape had to be reviewed. Workers were using test data in preparation for starting up part of the new system, so it wasn’t immediately clear whether data on the stolen tape were real, Sabety said.
She said early this morning that the initial review focused mostly on using keyword searches, and now a more exhaustive analysis is being done after the additional information was discovered.
Strickland said he didn’t want to alarm workers unnecessarily or go public with incomplete information but that he’s telling the public what he knows.
“I believe we’ve responded in an expeditious manner, exercising appropriate caution,” he said.
The governor noted that his personal information also was on the tape, “and I slept very well last night.” Still, Strickland was not told about the problem until Thursday afternoon, and asked the State Highway Patrol to help investigate an hour later.
Strickland moved to beef up data security — starting with an order that no more backup data be sent home with employees.
Republicans noted that the problem came during the same week an Ohio inspector general’s report determined that Frankie Coleman, the wife of Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, was paid for hours she didn’t work at the Ohio Department of Development
“The taxpayers are now having to foot the bill for two investigations and identity-theft protection for 64,000 Ohioans,” state GOP Deputy Chairman Kevin DeWine said in a statement. “This is just downright irresponsible management of state government, and it raises some serious questions about the judgment of this administration.”
Dispatch Senior Editor Joe Hallett, reporters John Futty and Alan Johnson and librarians Susan Stonick and Amy Disch contributed to this story.
“I believe we’ve responded in an expeditious manner, exercising appropriate caution.”
Gov. Ted Strickland
I hope so. Tomorrow is payday, and so far so good. I checked on the OAKS Website, and my pay stub and information has been correctly posted. Whether it will be deposited tomorrow is another story. (The State requires its employees to have direct deposit–I was one of the last holdouts–and the fecal matter will really impact the ventilation system if no checks are deposited.)
Susie is in a workshop at the Phoenix Summer Theatre centered around the play Wicked, which is playing at the Ohio Theatre until after Independence Day. She went to a performance this afternoon, and I went by the Riffe Center (where the workshop is held) afterwards. She loved Wicked so much that she was floating almost all the way to Wendy’s, where we had dinner.
Our computer is “dumb” at the moment, since we’ve temporarily discontinued cable as a cost-cutting measure. So, last night I moved it downstairs. (There had been no cable tap downstairs, other than the one for the TV, so we never kept the computer down there). It’s resting on a green plastic table that used to be on our front porch.
My big project last night was setting up the office in my own peculiar style. Where the computer was now holds my aforementioned Smith-Corona Galaxie XII manual typewriter (Is it a law that you have to misspell galaxy when it’s used for car and typewriter names?), and four milk crates of books on the shelf. One is a complete set (minus the volume for the letter I) of The World Book Encyclopedia of about 2000, which I bought dirt cheap at a library discard sale. The other are two crates full of the “Look how erudite I am” books–classics of fiction, religion, politics, philosophy, etc. I can’t have Crime and Punishment sharing the same shelf as Danielle Steel’s Toxic Bachelors, after all. (During one of my brief psychiatric hospitalizations, I asked Steph to bring me some books when she came to visit. Talk about a potpourri: She brought me James A. Michener, Charles Bukowski, and Thomas Merton.)
Library is closing, so this entry has to as well. Will try to post again during the weekend.