Miami DOT reports another stolen laptop

It is unclear if the computer contained sensitive personal information or if its contents were encrypted.

For the second time in a week, the Transportation Department's Miami regional Office of the Inspector General has disclosed that a laptop computer was stolen from one of its special agents.

OIG officials have confirmed that on April 25, the special agent-in-charge of the Miami office filed a police report stating that her laptop had been stolen April 24. It is unclear if the computer contained sensitive personal information or if its contents were encrypted. The laptop was password protected.

The special agent said she had left her laptop in a locked meeting room at an Orlando, Fla., hotel, where she was attending a conference, according to the police report filed with the Orange County Sheriff's Department. When she returned 45 minutes later, the room was open and a hotel employee was in it, she said.

On Aug. 9, DOT officials announced that a laptop containing the personal identification information of about 133,000 Florida residents was stolen July 27 from a government-owned vehicle in the Miami area.

Although that laptop was also password protected, the contents -- including names, Social Security numbers, birthdates and addresses -- were unencrypted. A special agent at the Miami office was using four databases on the computer to identify fraudulent licensing, according to OIG officials.

The Orlando incident was not announced earlier because DOT officials did not believe at the time that sensitive data had been lost, according to OIG officials. The theft was treated as a property loss. After the Miami laptop was reported stolen, OIG managers decided to revisit the Orlando theft.

Officials have received conflicting information about whether data on the laptop stolen in April was encrypted.

The special agent-in-charge told OIG managers that all the files were encrypted, but the police report indicates she told the police they were unencrypted.

It is possible that she told OIG managers something different than what she reported to the police, OIG officials said.

"We are investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding this issue and are also performing forensic analysis to determine what information may have been on the laptop," OIG spokesman David Barnes said Aug. 15. "If we find any personally identifiable information on it, we will make notifications to the department, the Congress and the public, as appropriate."

The special agent whose laptop was stolen last month worked for the special agent-in-charge whose laptop was reported missing in April.

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