A.A. Bondy
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Saddest Ghost Lamp

Monday, May 02, 2005

Time Warner Identities for Sale

Always wanted to pretend you're Wolf Blitzer? Ready to finally settle that long-standing bet over whether Bob Pittman's Social Security number begins with "666"?

Well, you're dreams may soon come true in the form of a Russian e-mail offering a bunch of very high-class identities for sale: Time Warner apparently "lost" a data tape containing the names and social security numbers of an undisclosed number of the company's current and former employees, rendering them vulnerable to identity theft. Which makes the whole Judy Woodruff thing so much clearer now: She was an imposter!

Here's the contrite e-mail they sent to employees:
May 2, 2005

To: Time Warner Colleagues
From: Larry Cockell, Senior Vice President and Chief Security Officer
RE: Employee Data Tapes

For several years, as part of our company's regular processes to protect our computerized data, Time Warner has used a leading data storage firm to ship and store our computer back-up tapes offsite. I am writing to let you know that this outside firm recently lost a container of these back-up tapes during transport to one of its storage facilities.

The missing tapes contained company data including names and U.S. Social Security numbers of: current and former U.S.-based employees of Time Warner and its current and former affiliates (and U.S. citizens working for the company abroad); some of their dependents and beneficiaries; and certain other individuals who have provided services to the company.

With respect to non-U.S. citizens who work for Time Warner outside the U.S., there was no information comparable to a Social Security number on the missing tapes. Accordingly, we are providing this letter to non-U.S. employees as a courtesy, but do not believe that there is a need for them to consider options like those presented below.

The U.S. Secret Service is involved in an active investigation of this matter, working closely with Time Warner and the outside data storage firm. We have now determined that public disclosure of this matter will not interfere with the investigation. To date, the investigation has not found any evidence that the tapes or their contents have been accessed or misused. In addition, the information on the tapes is in a form that is not easily accessed.

Time Warner takes the security of our employees' personal information very seriously and we deeply regret that this incident occurred. We are aggressively investigating this situation and are committed to staying in touch with you as the investigation unfolds. In addition, we have taken the following steps:

• First, we have posted a copy of this letter, a press release, Q&A and other information on our company's internal and external websites, and we will post updates, as appropriate, on those sites.

• Second, in the U.S. we have set up a special toll-free number (800-435-2285) to assist you with questions or concerns you may have relating to this incident. Outside the U.S., the number is 402-516-5014.

• Third, we have contacted the major credit agencies - Equifax, Experian and Trans Union - to let them know about this incident. While we have no evidence that information on the tapes has been compromised, given that the investigation is ongoing, you may want to take the precaution of placing a fraud alert on your credit file. The law allows you to place an initial fraud alert on your credit file free of charge for 90 days. This notification alerts creditors to use additional steps to verify your identity prior to granting credit in your name.

To place a fraud alert on your Equifax credit file, please call the toll-free number at Equifax at 877-559-6020. Once the fraud alert has been placed with Equifax, a notification will be sent on your behalf to Experian and Trans Union, who will add the alert to their files or contact you to obtain additional information.

Alternatively, you may choose to contact Experian and Trans Union directly to place a fraud alert on your credit file at those companies. They can be reached at:

Trans Union

• Fourth, in addition to the above services, Time Warner has made arrangements with Equifax to offer to U.S. employees - at no cost to you - the Equifax Credit Watch(tm) Gold with 3-in-1 Monitoring service that will help protect your identity and credit information for 12 months. This service includes:

◦ Daily alert notifications of key changes in your credit reports at Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. If no changes occur during the month, you'll receive a "No News is Good News" notification.
◦ Unlimited access to your Equifax Credit Report(tm) and one 3-in-1 Credit Report.
◦ $20,000 in identity theft insurance with no deductible (subject to limitations and exclusions).
◦ 24-hour customer service to answer questions and initiate disputes of your credit information.

You can enroll in this Equifax credit protection program free of charge for the next 90 days. If you would like to enroll, Equifax has a simple Internet-based verification and enrollment process at You will be receiving by mail a hard copy version of this letter containing (for U.S. employees only) a Promotional Code, located in the upper right hand corner of the page, that you will need to provide to Equifax during the enrollment process. If you do not have access to the Internet and would prefer to enroll by mail, please call 800-435-2285. You will need the Promotional Code to enroll by mail.

If we become aware of any instance in which the information on the tapes may have been accessed or misused, we will alert you immediately of additional steps that can and should be taken.

Again, please know that we regret any inconvenience or concern this incident may cause you. Be assured that we are committed to continuing to take whatever steps are appropriate to protect confidential employee information. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.