Watchdog: State Mishandled Computer Backup of Sensitive Data

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - State technology administrators failed to report the theft of a backup computer device containing personal information on thousands of taxpayers quickly enough to police and took too much time relaying the news to top government officials, the state watchdog said Friday.

After learning the device had been stolen in June from the car of an intern responsible for keeping it overnight, the project manager of Ohio's massive new online financial system told the intern not to tell police the device contained stolen data, Inspector General Tom Charles said.

Administrators also waited three days before informing state police of the theft, losing another chance to recover the tape, according to a report released by Charles.

"State officials were focused more on determining the volume of sensitive data on the tape than in recovering the device, even though both goals could have been achieved," the report said.

The report also said computer administrators failed to protect confidential information contained in the new online financial system.

Charles said this failure continued despite a warning from the state auditor in February that Social Security numbers were easily accessible.

The report faulted the state for creating a system that allowed the backup device to be taken home nightly to unsecured places despite the well-known risks of data theft.

"It is clear that security and confidentiality were secondary concerns," the report said.

The device holding hundreds of thousands of Social Security numbers was stolen from intern Jared Ilovar's car June 15.