Home > Identity Theft > Data Leak at Stem Cell Bank Makes My Blood Run Cold

Comments 3 Comments

faceMaskIdentity_Xenia_Antunes_CCFlickrThe database compromise club has a new member. Mazel Tov, Cord Blood Registry. You are the latest organization to fail in your responsibility to your clients by neglecting to provide even minimal security for their personal data.  Your membership card is in the mail.

Who is CBR?

Before diving into the data leak, let’s learn a bit more about Cord Blood Registry. CBR is perhaps the world’s largest stem cell bank storing more than 350,000 cord blood collections for individuals and their families.

As my Credit.com colleague Chris Maag wrote: “The Cord Blood Registry saves stem cells from umbilical cords, which is useful in treatment for sickle cell anemia, and in transplant surgeries to minimize the risk of new organs getting rejected by the body. Researchers are studying other potential uses, including regenerating cells to repair damaged tissue.”

[Article: Big Data Breach at Sensitive Lab Prompts Credit Scare]

They claim to be the biggest and “baddest” at what they do.

“Our 80,000 square foot laboratory is the largest cord blood processing facility in the world with some of the most advanced technology in the industry.”

As CBR says on their website:

You can rely on our experience and expertise for your family.

But based on what they lost, how they lost it, when they lost it, the timing and way they explained it, it’s obvious that they have some serious work to do if they want to regain their clients’ trust.


300,000 CBR clients received this belated Valentine’s Day card from David Zitlow, Executive Vice President for External Affairs. It opens with the following:

“I am writing to let you know that an incident occurred that may lead to personal information about you being exposed.”

The personal information referenced is of a demographic and financial nature. Translation: names, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers and credit card expiration dates.

Apparently, a backpack containing three unencrypted storage tapes, a Dell laptop, zip drive and external hard drive was stolen from a CBR employee’s car, shortly before midnight on December 13, 2010 outside of 365 Main Street—a private data center in San Francisco.

[Free Tool: Obtain your Identity Risk Score from Credit.com]

According to a story on Health Data Management, CBR did not immediately post information about the breach on their site and it took them several weeks to get the word out to their client base.

As reported by Paul NcNamara in Buzzblog, Kathy Engle, CBR’s director of corporate communications told him that clinical data was not breached—in other words, a hacker wasn’t able to get through their security protocols. That’s the good news … kind of.  For the 300,000 whose information was compromised, the manner of leak is not nearly as important as the fact that it happened in the first place.  And as far as I’m concerned, the fact that the data was neither encrypted nor locked in a secure environment (a car trunk is not a secure environment) is just plain nuts.  When it comes to data security, that’s the bare minimum.

“Keeping your personal information secure is of the utmost importance to us,” the letter reads.

Sure it is. That’s why the names, addresses, Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers and credit card expiration dates of some 300,000 clients was neatly packed in a backpack in the back of a “locked” car in San Francisco. I guess someone exercised some degree of care—I mean the car might have been left unlocked.

The letter goes on to say:

“CBR also brought in computer security experts to evaluate potential risks. Our experts have advised us there is no indication that any of your personal information has been accessed or misused.”

It should really read, “… no indication that your personal information has been accessed or misused yet.” The information is out there. It’s been in the press. Rest assured, somewhere out there identity thieves are making inquiries.

But the best is yet to come.

Next: The Big Payback »

Image: Xenïa Antunes, via Flickr.com

Pages: 1 2

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • Pingback: umbilical cord stem cells bank | StemEnhance™ and StemFlo™ | Stem Cell Enhancer()

  • Mark

    As a former employee all I can say is “Yeah that sounds about right.” There fear-selling tactics, under-educated employees (most barely holding associate degree from the local community college), no drug-screening policies, aging facilities, and temperamental one-of-a-kind programs (that only two people in the world can reset if they crash) all leave something to be desired. More than 70% of the time when I needed to call the tech support department based in San Francisco, the on-call techie would answer inside a nightclub, intoxicated, and unable to help. Go with a public bank with actual research PhDs that will understand the genetics of cord blood, and with a facility that isn’t based in the ghetto side of Tucson, or at least with a company that doesn’t allow physical drives to leave the property.

    • Mark

      I mean honestly, pull up 365 Main St, San Francisco, CA 94105 on google maps and check out the crappy city parking lot across the street where the robbery was committed and check out how many bars and the popular brewery up the street. I thought I was putting this place behind me until I got a “friendly letter” saying that someone stole my info, but that they would give me a ONE YEAR paid subscription to a credit monitoring company. Thanks a lot CBR your trust breaks more often than your AXP devices.

  • Pingback: Empowering You » News about Medical Identity Theft issue #1()

  • Pingback: Data Leak at Stem Cell Bank Makes My Blood Run Cold | Cyber Crimes Unit()

  • ann

    I’d like to know why unencrypted personal data like this is leaving the premises.

    “Apparently, a backpack containing three unencrypted storage tapes, a Dell laptop, zip drive and external hard drive was stolen from a CBR employee’s car, shortly before midnight on December 13, 2010 outside of 365 Main Street—a private data center in San Francisco.”

    Yes, I received a letter also…not very happy.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team