A laptop stolen in August from an employee's vehicle parked at a Dayton Beach, Fla. Medical center exposed more than 33,000 patients' personal and medical data, according to hospital officials.

Halifax Health officials last week began sending out letters to the roughly 33,000 people who may have had their data exposed in the theft, advising them to check in with the major credit reporting companies to monitor their various accounts for any unusual activity.

Some of the data was thought to be password-protected while other data may not have been, hospital officials.

"We have no reason to believe that any identity theft has occurred," Ann Martorano, the health care provider's chief marketing officer, said in a statement. "However, we are advising patients of the steps they can take to protect themselves from that possibility."

Florida is one of 43 states that require companies and organizations to notify people when their personal or financial information is accidentally or deliberately compromised.

Colleges and universities have been particularly hard hit by hackers in the past year. Last month, officials in charge of a mammography project at the University of North Carolina acknowledged the research database was hacked back in 2007.

Halifax Health officials said they decided to start sending out these advisement letters to patients after it and law enforcement agencies were unable to track down the purloined laptop.

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com.