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IBM Loses Retirees' Personal Info

IBM Corp., one of the world's leading providers of encryption and other data-management technologies, is in the uncomfortable position of trying to solve its own mystery involving missing computer tapes with sensitive information about employees and records of customer transactions.

An outside vendor was transporting the tapes from one IBM facility to another on Feb. 23 when the tapes fell out of a contractor's vehicle in Westchester County, N.Y., not far from IBM headquarters in Armonk. IBM representatives went to the scene and couldn't find the tapes, spokesman Fred McNeese said Tuesday.

The incident surfaced in recent weeks when IBM's human-resources department wrote to affected workers -- primarily former employees -- to inform them. The letter said the tapes held archival information "such as your Social Security number, your dates of employment with IBM, birth date, contact information such as your address, and your IBM work history."

IBM also advertised in a local newspaper to ask for the return of the tapes.

Even one backup tape likely has room for information on thousands of employees or customer accounts. McNeese would not reveal how many tapes were gone or how many employees or clients were affected. He said some of the tapes were cloaked by encryption, but not all of them.

McNeese said there is no indication the information on the tapes has been exploited. But as a protection, IBM has offered a year of a credit-monitoring service to the affected employees, McNeese said. As for the customer information, McNeese said it included records of business transactions between IBM and certain clients, but he called the data "inconsequential."

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