Vets to get free credit monitoring

The Department of Veterans Affairs is notifying veterans whose data was on a laptop computer stolen from Unisys’ Reston, Va., office on Aug. 3 that they are entitled to one year of free credit monitoring, for which Unisys will pay.

Unisys spokeswoman Lisa Meyer said the company signed a contract Friday with a major credit-monitoring company to provide the free service. She declined to name the company.

The stolen laptop contained insurance claims data on about 20,000 veterans who were treated at the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia VA medical centers or their community clinics in the past four years. Unisys has a VA contract to track the claims.

“Those people affected will get one year of free monitoring service starting when they sign up,” she said, “which doesn’t have to be immediately.”

Meyer said the VA was completing a second letter that will tell veterans how to sign up for the service. The VA initially sent letters to the veterans and their families to notify them that their information was on the stolen computer.

The laptop loss angered lawmakers on Capitol Hill and refocused attention on the failure of some agencies to secure their data properly.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said, “I expect VA to hold the contractor financially responsible for any costs that veterans may incur as the result of this loss.”

The theft marks the third time in four months that someone has stolen a computer containing federal data. It came after the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General announced that an OIG laptop computer stolen from a government vehicle July 27 in Doral, Fla., contained the names, Social Security numbers, birthdates and addresses of about 133,000 Florida residents.

The data was part of a five-year, 23-state investigation into people lying or bribing officials to obtain commercial driver’s licenses, said David Barnes, a DOT spokesman.

Kathy Dillaman, associate director of investigations for the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Investigative Services, said agencies could tighten data security through better training and accountability practices. “You have to also look at what information do you allow to be downloaded and taken outside of good controls?” she added.

Meanwhile, ID Analytics, a California data-analysis company, will provide breach-monitoring services on the data in the laptop stolen from a VA employee’s home in May and recovered in late June.

Mike Cook, vice president of ID Analytics, said the company and the VA created “a gift agreement contract” to provide its services free. This is its first venture into the federal sector, he added.

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