BP loses oil spill claimant data


BP has admitted to losing a laptop containing personal data on around 13,000 claimants from the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

The device went missing when a BP employee was on a business trip, but no other details emerged on how or where the laptop was lost.

The oil giant contacted those affected to notify them of the breach and offered to pay for their credit to be monitored, whilst law enforcement was notified.

The data, which included claimants' social security numbers, phone numbers and addresses, was not encrypted, according to reports. However, the laptop was password protected.

"The personal information was in a spreadsheet maintained by BP as part of a tracking process for claims arising from the Deepwater Horizon accident before the Gulf Coast Claims Facility was established," BP said in a statement.

"There is no evidence that the laptop or data was targeted or that anyone's personal data has in fact been compromised or accessed in any way."

BP said it would continue to search for the lost laptop with the help of law enforcement.

An inexplicable' event

Chris McIntosh, chief executive of Stonewood, said despite BP's efforts to investigate what went on, it was "too little, much too late."

"When you factor in the legal importance of the data, and the scale of the event which made BP record it in the first place, it becomes inexplicable. Certainly, if this had happened in the UK we'd hope that the ICO would be bringing its full weight down upon BP."

Darren Shimkus, senior vice president of Credant Technologies, said the BP loss was a "real wakeup call to corporations and governments everywhere."

"It's only going to get harder for IT. As consumerisation brings more smartphones, iPads and other devices into the corporate environment, data risk multiplies and becomes even harder to control," Shimkus added.

BP will be far from happy about the breach, especially at a time when it would have hoped the Deepwater Horizon disaster was being left in the past.

The firm faced heavy criticism following the event and BP's management of it.

BP came under fire when it bought up oil spill-related search terms from Google, even though the firm claimed it only wanted to provide information on the clean-up efforts.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.