What might have been a minor breach of IT policy at Pfizer last year cascaded into a serious security incident when the personal data of 17,000 employees and former employees leaked onto a peer-to-peer network. Connecticut's state attorney general, concerned that state residents were at risk, launched an investigation. At least one former employee filed a lawsuit against the company.
It all started when the spouse of a Pfizer employee used file-sharing software on a company laptop, presumably to swap music or other content with other P2P users. Unknowingly, the laptop user also exposed 2,300 work files, including those containing sensitive Pfizer employee data--names, Social Security numbers, addresses, and bonus information resident on the laptop.
Pfizer isn't the only company to have its sensitive data exposed in this way. A former employee of ABN Amro Mortgage Group last year exposed spreadsheets with personal data on 5,000 customers from a home computer loaded with the BearShare file-sharing program. And last fall, a terrorist threat assessment of Chicago's transit system, completed by Booz Allen Hamilton under contact to the Federal Transit Administration, surfaced on a P2P network.