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News of the Day ... In Perspective

06/11/2006

Wider breach of veterans’ data cannot be ruled out

A recent computer theft may have included confidential data on up to 1.1 million military members on active duty, 430,000 National Guard troops, and 645,000 reservists.

The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department had reported previously that a laptop stolen from an employee’s home had contained names, Social Security numbers, and birth dates on 26.5 million veterans.

Although authorities initially stated that the thieves were looking for computer equipment that could be erased and re-sold on college campuses, there is no assurance that they didn’t (or don’t) know what they actually acquired.

Officials from government agencies told a House hearing panel that personal information could never be considered 100% safe, especially since more government employees were working from home and using laptop computers.

“It is currently the standard that all data on laptops be encrypted,” said Clay Johnson, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. “We just don’t enforce it” (Peter Szekely, Reuters 6/8/06).

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