When a computer consultant buys a used wireless pager — once the property of a former Morgan Stanley executive — on eBay, he ends up with an unexpected bonus: a trove of sensitive corporate data.
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After popping a battery into the BlackBerry's back panel, Sacks discovered a few things the previous owner wouldn't have wanted him to see — more than 200 internal company e-mails from financial services firm Morgan Stanley and a database of more than 1,000 names, job titles (from vice presidents to managing directors), e-mail addresses and phone numbers (some of them home numbers) for Morgan Stanley executives worldwide.
It was all there to read, Sacks said, the minute he turned on the device.
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The incident serves as a cautionary tale about the ways companies fail to manage sensitive data despite public assurances to the contrary. It also shows how employees who are entrusted with confidential information are often insufficiently trained about the simple yet sophisticated technologies they use.
In addition to personal e-mails that reveal the VP's own Charles Schwab IRA account numbers, the name and phone number of his mother and the amounts he paid for his monthly mortgage, car and Visa bills, the e-mails discuss confidential information about loan terms for Morgan Stanley clients, debt-restructuring strategies for specific companies, preliminary talks for potential merger deals and even some creative ways of interpreting contracts. [Privacy Digest]