• Kyodo, JIJI

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A man who allegedly stole hard disk drives containing data collected by the Kanagawa Prefectural Government began stealing the devices soon after he joined a data erasure company in 2016, it was learned Saturday.

Yuichi Takahashi, 50, who was employed by electronics recycling company Broadlink Co. was arrested Friday for allegedly stealing computer hard drives after the prefectural government reported that some of its discarded drives with personal data still on them had been sold online, police said.

He was charged with stealing 12 hard drives stored at the company’s technical center on Tuesday.

No government information was stored on them.

He admitted to the allegation, saying he intended to sell them online, and separately admitted to taking an additional 18 hard drives containing personal data that were that were sent by the prefectural government to Broadlink to be destroyed, according to the police. Of the 18, only nine have been recovred.

Broadlink was supposed to have destroyed the drives, which had been used in the prefectural government’s computer servers.

Takahashi told the police that he had stolen hard drives on several occasions since around March 2016, and the police are investigating other potential cases.

The situation came to light after a man who bought nine hard drives in an internet auction contacted the Kanagawa Prefectural Government. Even though the data was supposed to have been deleted, the man was able to restore the data using special software.

The data — including individuals’ names, addresses and tax payment records for automobiles, in addition to notifications of tax investigations with company names and records of the prefecture’s operations — was not encrypted to prevent unauthorized access.

The servers were leased from Fujitsu Leasing Co., which commissioned Broadlink to scrap the hard drives after they were replaced.

Broadlink held a snap inspection on Tuesday and found Takahashi was in possession of 12 hard drives. A security camera also captured footage of Takahashi taking the drives, according to the police.

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