In a terrific ad campaign that aired many years ago, luggage manufacturer American Tourister showed a behind-the-scenes parody of what transpired just moments after airline passengers checked their bags.
Once the bags disappeared on the conveyor belt, the spot showed a band of hulking gorillas tossing luggage like Frisbees or doing an aggressive mambo on top of them.
After roughly 30 years of air travel since that spot aired, and given my subsequent experiences with broken luggage locks and bag tears, I'm convinced that the commercial contained more truth than the airlines would ever admit to.
That was also decades before we would become familiar with the term IT security, and all that it implies.
Which is why it gave me more than a slight pause for concern when I learned that an employee of the Internal Revenue Service had, incredibly, checked a laptop through baggage that contained the fingerprints and personal data -- dates of birth and Social Security numbers -- of roughly 300 IRS employees and job applicants.
According to the IRS, it had determined that the laptop was lost in transit and later reported the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for investigation.
I don't think I have to expound on my incredulity about someone checking a laptop in lieu of carrying it on board -- let alone one that contained sensitive information -- to make a point about security.
But lately there seems to be a trend of egregious breaches of IT security.
Recently, a hard drive with data on more than 26 million armed services veterans was stolen from the home of an analyst from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The puzzling thing about the theft is that nothing else of value was taken from the home, leaving authorities to believe that the thieves targeted the computer for an easy resell.
Giant insurer American International Group said yesterday that computer equipment stolen back in March from one of its Midwest offices contained the names, Social Security numbers and some medical information on 930,000 people.
Last month, members of the American Institute of CPAs were informed that a hard drive containing the names, addresses and SSNs of institute members was lost in transit after being sent out -- against internal controls policy -- for repair.
The DVA theft sparked a meeting of the House Government Reform Committee to review security measures at government agencies. The IRS, meanwhile, has agreed to review its current security measures and install new fingerprint and encryption devices.
On the rare occasions that I've written commentary on technology issues, I've almost always pointed out that IT security is usually a dominant topic at any technology conference, and judging by recent events, there's good reason for that.
It also may be time to update that baggage commercial of the 1970s and bring it into the technology age. Because those who pose security concerns are far more subtle and inherently more clever than simian baggage handlers.
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