Ernst & Young laptop theft exposes Hotels.com data

The personal details of over 1.5 million people have been lost in two lost computer incidents. Around 1.3 million clients of a Texas student loan company and 243,000 customers of Hotels.com have data on computers whose whereabouts is now unknown.

Software company Hummingbird was building a document management system for the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan company and took the details of 1.3 million TGSL customers, decrypted them and stored them on new hardware. That hardware has since been lost.

The equipment contains the social security numbers of the people named. The lost hardware is believed to require a password to gain access to it. "Hummingbird believes that any misuse of the data is extremely unlikely," said a Hummingbird statement.

Meanwhile, a lost laptop has caused data on 243,000 Hotels.com customers to be lost. The website and Ernst & Young informed customers by letter of the loss.

"Recently, Hotels.com was informed by its outside auditor, Ernst & Young, that one of Ernst & Young's employees had his laptop computer stolen," Hotels.com wrote in its letter to customers. "The computer contained certain information about customer transactions with Hotels.com and other sites. This information may have included your name, address and some credit or debit card information you provided at that time."

The error is unlikely to bolster Ernst & Young's security credentials. It announced just days ago that it was launching a fraud investigations service on a global scale, bringing together over 1,000 specialist professionals.

Reports in recent weeks have revealed that Ernst & Young has lost machines with data on people connected with Sun, IBM, Cisco, BP and Nokia.