Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Laptop Liabilities

6:00 PM -- R. James Nicholson, the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, is tiptoeing on banana peels these days, as criticism mounts about poor data management at his agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs.

On Wednesday, Nicholson hired ID Analytics of San Diego to monitor multiple industries for signs of illegal activity related to the agency's May laptop theft that put 26.5 million veterans and family members at risk of identity theft and fraud. (See VA Reports Massive Data Theft.)

The monitoring plan comes as a welcome alternative for Nicholson, who originally thought the VA would have to fork over millions to compensate veterans. The stolen laptop, however, was recovered by police in June, apparently untouched. The culprits were two teenagers who seemed to have no intention of using the data for identity fraud.

But relief for Nicholson is momentary these days. Another VA data theft in Pennsylvania last week has angry politicians calling for his resignation. Broadcast news sources quote Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) as stating: "Less than a month after promising to make the VA the 'gold standard' in data security, Secretary Nicholson has again presided over loss of the personal information of thousands more veterans."

Here's what happened: On August 3, VA subcontractor Unisys Corp. notified the VA that a desktop computer was missing from Unisys's offices in Reston, Va. The computer contained information on approximately 18,000 VA patients in VA medical facilities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, including their names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, insurance information, dates of military service, and "insurance claims data that may include some medical information." Unisys, which has its own enterprise security practice, had been hired to collect outstanding medical fees for the VA.

  • 1