Theft of 900 bank customer files prompts e-privacy primer

The Bank of Montreal and Ontario's privacy commissioner have released a new brochure offering tips on keeping private information safe on portable electronic devices.

Thievesgot the files of 900 Ottawa areabank customers when they stole a Bank of Montreal laptop in May.

In response to that and similar crimes, thebank and Ontario's information and privacy commissionerjointly released a brochure onThursday to educate the public on how to keep sensitive information private and safe on portable electronic devices such as laptops, PDAsand cellphones.

The brochure, called Reduce Your Roaming Risks: A Portable Privacy Primer, says such popular devices are "golden eggs" for criminalswho steal other people's personal information anduse it to commit crimes such as credit card fraud.

"With today's technology, people have the flexibility to connect to their organization's network from virtually anywhere in the world," said Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian in a statement. "But working away from the bricks and mortar office means that you are also working outside of the traditional security layers."

The brochure offers portable device users advicesuch as:

  • Use strong power on, account and screensaver passwords to protect devices.
  • Enable the automatic lock on the device after five minutes.
  • Equip devices with personal firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and keep security patches up to date.
  • Do notconduct confidential business on computers or cellphones in public places.
  • Use a digital wipe utility to remove all confidential data from devices when no longer needed, instead of relying on the "delete" function.
  • Never connect to two separate networks at the same time (such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth).

The brochure also includes numbers to call if you become the victim of identity theft.

There is no sign thecustomer filesstolen from the Bank of Montreal in mid-May have beenused to commit anycrimes so far, said BMO spokesman Michael Edmondson Thursday.

However, the bank is warning customers tomonitor their accounts.

Police are still investigating the case, but have few leads.