Thanks to Mathew Englander for pointing me to the following press release, from a school board in Saanich, a suburb of Victoria, British Columbia:
As a result of a break-in at the Saanich School Board Office on Monday, September 19, 2005, a number of items were stolen including a small safe. Damage was also done to the two buildings affected as the thieves broke into locked and secured areas.
The contents of the safe included back-up computer tapes that contained employee, financial and student information records. All information was saved in a secure manner which would require significant technical expertise and the use of specialized computer equipment and software to access. While the potential for the data to be accessed in a usable format is small, the School District is now taking steps to inform employees and parents of the theft of these backup tapes. Releasing this information sooner had the potential of compromising the police investigation.
Employees will be advised to take precautionary steps to address potential identity theft. Parents will be advised that the backup tapes included student information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, courses and grades.
Superintendent Keven Elder said, “We regret that this incident occurred, and have been assured by the police and our insurance providers that appropriate procedures for safeguarding this information were in place. We are working closely with the Central Saanich Police Department to support the ongoing investigation and retrieve the stolen goods.”
From the carefully worded release, it's apparent that the data was not encrypted. The tapes may require a "specialized" reader and specific backup/restore software, but I don't think this will be of any comfort to a sophisticated person whose information was on the tape.
All together now: "Encrypt your data."