by CIO Staff

VA’s Stolen Laptop Recovered

Jun 29, 20062 mins
IT Strategy

Since this story was originally reported, it has been updated to include additional information regarding the missing hard drive, as well as to modify its title.

The government has recovered the stolen Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) laptop computer with sensitive data on up to 26.5 million veterans and military personnel, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson announced to the Associated Press, Forbes reports.

The IDG News Service reports that after conducting forensic testing, the FBI determined and told the VA the personal data on the hardware was not accessed by thieves.

The AP reports Nicholson also mentioned there have been no reports of identity theft to any veterans since the laptop was stolen from the Maryland home of an agency employee. However, Nicholson offered no immediate details on how the laptop was recovered.

The article also states that newly discovered documents show the VA analyst blamed for losing the laptop had received permission to work from home on data that included millions of Social Security numbers.

“From the start, the VA has acted as if the theft was a PR problem that had to be managed, not fully confronted,” Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif, told the AP. “They’re trying to pin it on this one guy, but I think it’s other people we need to be looking at.”

According to the documents provided to the AP, the analyst, whose name was being withheld, had approval as early as Sept. 5, 2002, to use special software at home that was designed to manipulate large amounts of data.

The AP also states that a separate agreement, dated Feb. 5, 2002, from the office of the assistant VA secretary for policy and planning, allowed the worker to access Social Security numbers for millions of veterans. A third document, also issued in 2002, gave the analyst permission to take a laptop computer and accessories for work outside of the VA building.

However, the VA said last month it was in the process of firing the analyst, who is now challenging the dismissal. VA officials told the AP that the firing was justified because the analyst violated department procedure by taking the data home. They also said he was “grossly negligent” in handling sensitive information.

For more information, read Data Breach at the VA. (CSO)

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-Compiled by Paul Kerstein