VA loses another hard drive

Hard drive possibly stolen from VA employee may have had vets' personal data. Secretary Nicholson 'getting to the bottom of this.'
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

It looks like security hasn't improved much at the VA. A hard drive missing from the Veterans Affairs Department offices in Alabama may have been stolen, Government Computer News reports.

The hard drive may contain personal information about veterans but the department didn't have any information about what data may have been compromised.

Once again, VA Secretary Jim Nicholson issued soothing pronouncements.

“We intend to get to the bottom of this, and we will take aggressive steps to protect and assist anyone whose information may have been involved,” he said.

VA has encrypted its laptops, department CIO Robert Howard said previously. VA is in the process of protecting other portable devices in the wake of a dramatic breach last May in which a laptop containing the personal data of millions of veterans was stolen from an employee’s home.

House members who have been here before voiced outrage.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) said: “There is no excuse for storing sensitive personal information about our veterans on portable, government equipment that is not secure."

The employee used the hard drive to back up information from his office computers and may have contained data from research projects the employee was involved in. The hard drive may have contained personal identifying information on some veterans but portions of the data were protected.

The inspector general has seized the employee’s work computer to analyze its contents in the hope of identifying what was on the hard drive. Pending results of the investigation, VA is prepared to send individual notifications and provide one year of free credit monitoring to those whose information proves compromised.

“We have made considerable progress, but establishing a culture that always puts the safekeeping of veterans’ personal information first is no easy task. This unfortunate incident will not deter our efforts, but it underscores the complexity of the task we have undertaken,” Nicholson said.
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