The last while has been a difficult time for me.
Recently, my home was burgled and both of my computers were taken. The only other thing that was removed was a piece of musical hardware that was attached to my laptop at the time it was stolen.
Now I am very happy that my guitars and other musical instruments and equipment were not taken in this robbery, but that relief was soon eclipsed by the repercussions to unfold. I could not initially comprehend the disruption and stress I would experience from losing my computers and the connections they allow me to make all over the world. But it was when I realised all of the information stored on the computers, and the implications of that, that my stress really mounted.
Initially I was overwhelmed by the long list of things to do: deal with the police, including the finger-printing ID crew, the insurance company negotiations, the still-not-yet complete retrieval of information from back-up drives, and now the just-beginning process of informing my patients about possible need to prevent misuse of any information I had on them.
I will deal with the latter point first:
If you have been to see me as a patient (especially if you have done so in the last two years) some basic information about you will have been in a database on my computers: Your name; address; telephone number; an email address (usually only if I have made contact with you that way); the month and year when I first saw you as a patient; and for a few people, the name of their third party insurer. No financial transaction information, nor any of your patient records were stored on the computers. If I did any medico-legal report on your behalf, however, that would potentially be lost into cyberspace. The police constable I spoke with about this problem said that the people involved in this chain of crime are not usually at all interested in the medical information about any person. They are more way more concentrated on obtaining what they can for identity theft. Fortunately, what they will find on my computers is very little more (and maybe even considerably less) than they would get by going through ones garbage or doing a 411 search online. My sincere apologies to anyone for whom this is a source of worry or concern.
As for my own security concerns, this theft has been the source of a long list of unwelcome jobs. Most importantly for anyone who feels they need to take the same precautions against identity theft I did, I contacted both the Canadian Credit agencies, Equifax and Transunion so that my credit files could be flagged. Here is a very useful webpage on the basic advice around Possible Identity Theft: http://www.canlaw.com/credit/identitytheft.htm
I would encourage everyone who reads this blog post to have a look at the link provided, just to be familiar with the basic safeguards we all need to take against this sort of crime – as well as the ones most of us never should need to take if we are mindful and have good luck on our side. I do not believe any of my patients need to go this route, but that is something everyone will have to determine for him or herself.
I also learned a fair bit about home security from all of this. Motion detecting lights around areas of your home that are more sheltered can be very important. Take precautions also to secure windows and doors – especially in areas where a prowler has cover. The person who broke into my place broke a front window but didn’t manage to get in there, so he (she?) then bent a couple of screens before finding a window to force open and climb through. I understand that the thieves are usually in and out again in a few minutes flat. That looks to have been the case here.
An alarm, or better yet in the opinion of the police, a dog can be a very significant deterrent against this invasion of one’s personal space.
I may write more on this situation later but for now I just need to get this out to people it may affect.
A few final things. Please make sure you have onsite and preferably also off-site data backup on your computer files. How would your life be affected if everything on your computer(s) disappeared overnight? Also do cycle through computer and banking passwords and keep a paper record of them. Do not store them on your computer.