Outdated modes of technology such as microfiche are, surprisingly, being used by some of the world's biggest companies, and like all tech high or low, they're only as safe as those who handle them.
That's the take-home message quickly being learned by more than 700,000 Californians who receive or provide home care for the elderly and disabled, whose confidential personal and financial information has been lost and possibly compromised as the result of a microfiche mishap.
The massive data breach affects staff and treatment recipients of the state's In-Home Supportive Service program, part of California's Department of Social Services. According to the Los Angeles Times, the breach was not the result of sophisticated cybercrime but something far more old-fashioned: mail theft.
Hewlett Packard, which handles the company's payroll information, used the U.S. Postal Service to ship the sensitive data. The sensitive information was not stored not on an encrypted USB drive, but on a microfiche.
When the packaged arrived at the State Compensation Insurance Fund office in Riverside, Calif., on May 1, it was "damaged and incomplete" and the microfiche was missing, the L.A. Times and San Jose Mercury News reported.
The involved data included 375,000 employee's names, wages and Social Security numbers dating from October to December 2011 and the state identification numbers of 326,000 home care recipients.
"It's hard for us to believe that in one of the largest states in the union, we're using such an antiquated system," Steve Mehlman, a labor union spokesman, told the Times. "It clearly needs to be modified."