Tuesday, May 23, 2006

07: “More on Latest VA BOHICA”

Caution, this is not for the Type A personality.

A CNN report, partially reprinted below, indicates the VA sat on the information of the theft of the records of over 26 million veterans and some spouses of veterans in a home burglary in Virginia. The burglary was May 3rd and the information was not released until yesterday almost 3 weeks later!

That’s plenty of time for the low-lifes of the Internet to have used your Social Security Number, Name, and Date of Birth to gain access to your bank account, credit cards, investment accounts, etc.

Here is part of the article from CNN.com:

Theft of vets' data kept secret for 19 days

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Authorities waited almost three weeks to alert the public that personal data on more than 26 million U.S. veterans had fallen into the hands of thieves, a government source said Tuesday.

The data were on a laptop and external drive stolen May 3 in an apparent random burglary from the Montgomery County, Maryland, home of a Department of Veterans Affairs computer analyst, said the government source, who has been briefed on the issue.

The government did not immediately announce the theft because officials had hoped to catch the culprits and did not want to tip them off about what they had stolen for fear they would sell it, the government source said.

On Monday, officials abandoned that plan and alerted the public.

The computer disk contained the names, Social Security numbers and birth dates of every living veteran from 1975 to the present, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said Monday.

Nicholson told reporters that the FBI and the department's inspector general are investigating the matter.

Nicholson and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said there was no indication that the information has been misused. The missing data do not include health records or financial information, the department said. They do include some disability ratings and data on some veterans' spouses.

Nicholson said the analyst has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation but that no "ulterior motive" is suspected. The analyst is a longtime department employee but was not authorized to take the information home, he said.

Nicholson disclosed few details about the theft, citing the investigation. But he told CNN earlier, "We think that it wasn't a targeted burglary."They weren't after this [data]," he said. "There's a pattern of these kind of burglaries in this neighborhood."

But the missing information could be gold for electronic identity thieves, who operate hundreds of Internet sites where personal information is bought and sold."It's a pretty dire situation," said Rutrell Yasin, technology editor of Federal Computer Week, which covers computer and information technology issues in the federal government. "You have to hope that information is not in the hands of people who know what to do with it."

Yasin said the theft should be a wake-up call to federal agencies.

"They should certainly have the necessary security on their computers, secure communications links that would protect personal data," Yasin said.

Gonzales and Deborah Platt Majoras, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, lead the Bush administration's identity theft task force. Gonzales vowed federal prosecutors would have "zero tolerance" for anyone implicated in trafficking in veterans' personal data.

"We have no reason to believe at this time that the identity of these veterans have been compromised," he said. "But we feel an obligation to alert veterans so that they can take the appropriate steps to protect this information."

The VA sent a letter to veterans informing them of the stolen data. Anyone with questions can contact the agency at (800) 333-4636 or through the federal government's Web portal, www.firstgov.gov .

The FBI said its Baltimore, Maryland, field office is investigating, and Gonzales said the bureau was working in conjunction with local authorities.

Nicholson vowed to take steps to ensure such a mistake is not repeated, including mandatory security training in the next month for all employees with access to private information.

Lawmakers cite concerns
Lawmakers also expressed concerns about the stolen data.

To read the rest of the story click here.

Now, in addition to the security breach, we have a government agency that inexplicably exposes the people it exists to represent to greater risk and danger of identity theft by withholding information from the veterans for three weeks!

Time to dump the decision makers at the VA! (But we knew that already, didn’t we?)


“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” -- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

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