Anheuser-Busch laptops stolen; staff info taken, too

Friday, August 1, 2008 | 8:53 p.m. CDT


MILWAUKEE — Personal information for current and former employees of Anheuser-Busch Cos. in several states is missing, the nation's largest brewer said Friday.

Anheuser-Busch said in a statement that several laptops were recently stolen from one of its office buildings in the St. Louis area, where it has its headquarters.

It said at least one of those laptops contained data on current and former employees, dependents and some people involved in employee assistance programs. All the data was password-protected and encrypted, the company said.

Anheuser-Busch would not say how many people were affected or when exactly the theft occurred. But offices for attorneys general in Missouri, New Hampshire, Texas and Florida confirmed either they or their residents have been notified of the breach.

A letter from Anheuser-Busch to the New Hampshire Department of Justice said at least 2,250 residents in that state were affected.

The letter, which was posted on the New Hampshire's DOJ Web site, said the data was reported missing in early June and included Social Security numbers, addresses, marital statuses and dates of birth.

One of the company's 12 plants is in Merrimack, N.H.

The state of Florida, where Anheuser-Busch has a brewery in Jacksonville, was notified that some of its residents were affected, said Sandi Copes, a spokeswoman for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Anheuser-Busch's home state of Missouri was also notified of the data losses, said John Fougere, a spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon.

Both said they were not sure how many residents were affected.

Anheuser-Busch said there was no evidence the loss resulted in any identity theft crimes, including fraudulent credit card applications. Affected individuals are being notified and offered one year of free credit monitoring.

Data breaches like this are now an everyday occurrence, said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer organization based in San Diego, Calif. She said the fact that Anheuser-Busch's laptops were encrypted was rare, and that makes the breach less of a threat to people.

"It's obvious that they have adopted strong security practices," she said.



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