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The Associated Press reported a Wyoming resident and nine other employees of Union Pacific Corp. are suing Union Pacific for their use of employee’ Social Security numbers. According to officials, a company laptop, stolen in May of this year, contained the Social Security numbers of 30,000 current and former Union Pacific workers. The lawsuit could eventually include all of these employees. Identity theft and the frequent use of Social Security numbers as identification are key factors in this suit.

Computer theft and the ensuing risks for identify theft continue to plaque both government and commercial organizations. In May, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported careless employees and inadequate security practices put 26.5 million veteran’s identities at risk. A computer, filled with sensitive information, was stolen from an employee’s home. This is another in a recent series of poor internal security protocol and careless use of information by the government and businesses. The Privacy Rights Clearing House reported that in the past year it identified 29 cases where stolen laptops have contained Social Security numbers, health records and addresses for millions of people.

Simple procedures will protect sensitive data from unauthorized disclosure including the use of basic encryption in the form of software or specialized chips. Many computer companies may begin to sell computers with encryption built in, aiding consumers, business and government organizations in protecting vital information, ensuring the privacy and protection of individual identities.

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