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Comments by YACCS
Friday, June 30, 2006

God loves idiots

This isn't secure

V.A. Laptop Is Recovered, Its Data Intact

Published: June 30, 2006

WASHINGTON, June 29 — The government has recovered a stolen laptop computer and external hard drive that contains the birthdates and Social Security numbers for millions of veterans and military personnel, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement from its Baltimore field office that it appeared that the data had not been copied or misused.

"A preliminary review of the equipment by computer forensic teams has determined that the database remains intact and has not been accessed since it was stolen," the statement said.

Michelle Crnkovich, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Baltimore, said the computer was turned over to agents there on Wednesday. The person who delivered the laptop has not been charged, Ms. Crnkovich said. A $50,000 reward had been offered for information related to the computer.

Ms. Crnkovich said the United States Park Service had helped in the recovery of the equipment, which will be further tested by F.B.I. officials in Washington.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said on Capitol Hill on Thursday that there were no reports that the stolen data had been used for identity theft. But he acknowledged that the situation had "brought to the light of day some real deficiencies in the manner we handled personal data."

The laptop computer and a detachable hard drive were stolen in a burglary on May 3 from the home of an agency employee in Aspen Hill, Md. Some officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs learned of the theft almost immediately, but Mr. Nicholson said he was not notified until May 16.

Because of the delay, the F.B.I. did not find out about the theft until about two weeks after the burglary, which was under investigation by the police in Montgomery County, Md.

Officials at the veterans agency have said the employee violated department procedure by taking the information home. But The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that agency documents showed that the employee had approval to work on his laptop from home.

A spokesman for the agency, Matt Burns, said the employee had been put on administrative leave while the agency sought his dismissal. Mr. Burns declined to comment on the report by The A.P. "because it is an ongoing personnel matter."

Mr. Nicholson has said he wanted to dismiss the employee outright but was told he could not because of federal job-protection rights.

The records included names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers for millions of people, although the exact number has not been clear. At first, the department said information on 26.5 million veterans was affected. Later, it said the number included forces on active duty, as well as veterans.

It is amazing that this happened. It is even more amazing that the data wasn't hacked and used.

posted by Steve @ 12:25:00 AM

12:25:00 AM

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