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If AT&T had eaten its own dog food, it wouldn't be choking on humble pie

By Paul McNamara on Mon, 06/09/08 - 2:08pm.

Not sure how I missed this Network World story last week before writing about AT&T's stolen-laptop fiasco, which you may recall centered prominently on the fact that personal info on the machine was unencrypted: Turns out that only two days earlier AT&T had announced a new service ... an encryption service "designed to help companies prevent data loss."

Technology companies are constantly bragging about "eating their own dog food," a colorful euphemism for deploying to their employees first that which they will ask customers to buy. Some companies don't do it enough, apparently.

Granted, the laptop theft itself occurred May 15, but one would like to think that that AT&T's internal IT department could have gotten its hands on the goods in time to prevent much of the collateral damage -- if not the actual theft -- that is now causing the company such grief.

Instead, we hear this kind of thing from an AT&T manager who was victimized and told me: "It is pathetic that the largest telecom company in the world -- with more than 100 million customers -- doesn't encrypt basic personal information."

And this from a Q&A issued by AT&T to employees:

Q: Was it encrypted? If not, why not?

A: It was not encrypted, but the laptop was password protected. AT&T is currently in the process of encrypting such systems.

Other major technology companies appear to have gotten a jump on that process, witness IBM's announcement in January that it would be rolling out laptop encryption capabilities from PGP to 355,000 employees. EMC's chief security officer told us earlier this year that his company encrypts every laptop.

You'd expect as much from IBM and EMC given the extent to which those companies are involved in IT security.

And you might expect as much from a service provider rolling out an encryption service.

Of course, AT&T may be able to look on a bright side here: Now its marketers can call on potential buyers of its new encryption offering and say to them, "Hey, don't let what happened to us happen to you."

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