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1/30/2008
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Laptop Stolen With Personal Data On 300,000 Health Insurance Clients

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is offering its members free credit monitoring for one year as a result of the security breach.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey has notified its members that an employee laptop computer containing personal information -- including Social Security numbers -- for about 300,000 individuals was stolen in early January.

The health care insurer has sent letters to thousands of its members alerting them about the theft, which occurred in Newark, N.J., on Jan. 5. On its Web site, the company says a "security feature was initiated" on Jan. 28 that "destroys all the data on the stolen computer."

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey says the personal information contained on the computer also included names and addresses of members, but no medical data.

The company says it "believes" it is "highly unlikely" that any personal data stored on the stolen computer has been accessed and that the computer was "password protected."

Nonetheless, the insurer is offering affected members free credit monitoring for one year.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is the latest company to report a security breach related to a stolen laptop.

Back in October, Gap disclosed the theft of a laptop computer containing personal information on about 800,000 people who applied for jobs with the retailer. That computer was stolen from a third-party contractor that manages information on job applicants.

Among the biggest breaches involving a stolen laptop occurred in May 2006, when a Department of Veterans Affairs computer containing personal records on more than 26.5 million current and former members of the U.S. military was stolen. That hardware was later recovered but led to a major overhaul in VA security procedures and rules for data use and storage.

In another data security breach this week, financial services firm Davidson Cos. revealed that a hacker broke into its databases, stealing personal account information, including names and Social Security numbers, on more than 226,000 clients.

Calls to Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey were not immediately returned.

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