Personal data of reservists, veterans at risk in recent thefts

Encryption policies ignored at VA

Personal data belonging to more than 207,000 Army reservists was stolen earlier this year, according to Col. Jonathan Dahms, the Army Reserve's chief public affairs officer, and cited in a report on the KrebsOnSecurity blog by former Washington Post reporter Brian Krebs.

The Reserve Command began alerting affected reservists via e-mail messages on May 7, Dahms said. The unencrypted data was on a CD-ROM that was in a laptop stolen from an office of Serco Inc., a government contractor based in Herndon, Va. The laptop -- one of three stolen, but the only one known to contain personal data -- was taken from the company's Morrow, Ga., office. It may also have contained personal data on the spouses and children of some reservists.

In a separate incident, Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) said that a laptop stolen from an unidentified Veterans Affairs department contractor contained personal data that belonged to 644 veterans. Buyer, the ranking Republican on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the contractor reported the theft to the committee on April 28, according to report at NextGov.

Congress and the VA ordered in 2006 that contractors should store all personally identifiable information in encrypted form, but the data on the stolen one was not encrypted, according to the report.

In a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shenseki, dated May 12, Buyer detailed the incident and another recent laptop theft that may have exposed unencrypted data, according to the report. Shinseki had ordered a review in 2009 which revealed that 28 percent of the agency's contracts did not include the required information security clauses.

 

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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