Drunk employee passes out on the street, losing 2 USB sticks holding the personal data of an entire city

Druken businessman helped by staff in Japanese train station
(Image credit: Getty | TAGSTOCK1)

There's a reason we all feel some level of guilt and/or shame when we wake up after a night of heavy drinking. The depressant nature of alcohol means that even though you may have had an enjoyable time, and experienced an increased level of happiness the night before, your reserve of 'happy chemicals' is going to be severely depleted the next day. That's what leads to you feeling down, depressed, guilty, or ashamed.

Either that, or you passed out on the street, with the personal data of every resident of an entire city on a pair of USB drives in your bag and, when you came to, your bag, the USB sticks, and any lingering vestiges of personal pride were all long gone.

That's the experience of a certain 40-something worker in Amagasaki, Japan.

According to the BBC report they had transferred the data of near half a million people from their work machine to the USB drives, before travelling to neighbouring Osaka for a meeting, and then going out with colleagues for the night. 

The data reportedly included the names, birth dates, and addresses of the entire city's denizens, but also some far more sensitive information about certain families receiving social security benefits. 

The data was apparently encrypted, say city officials, and locked with a password. But we all have a pretty good idea just how effective the vast majority of passwords are. Not that I would want to give any potential thief a clue about how to access such a treasure trove of personal information on a USB stick, but what are the chances the password was simply 'pasuwādo'?

There has at least been no indication that anyone actually accessed the data and the city government has now announced it has recovered both drives.

A press release notes that local police officers, with the employee, found the bag containing the USB drives outside an apartment building in the city. That kinda looks like they just drunkenly shed the bag at some point before passing out, rather than someone actually taking it off their prone form.

We don't know what has happened to the worker in question subsequently, but officials for the company—originally commissioned to do work related to household and other benefits, though possibly not for much longer—apologised for the incident at the city office. Deep bows all round.


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Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.