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The Next Data Breach Could Mean Your IT Job

Does everyone at your company know what data shouldn't be stored on laptops or removable storage devices? Do they know where they can and can't take these devices? Is there a clear company policy on data that needs to be encrypted?

Having good answers to these questions about security policy doesn't just help safeguard data. For an IT or security pro, it could mean the difference between keeping his or her job and having to explain to the boss--or worse, law enforcement officers and government officials--the reasons for an embarrassing data breach that could cost big bucks to fix. IT professionals involved in enforcing security at places where data breaches have occurred, including the Veterans Affairs Department and Ohio University in Athens, have learned the hard way how alleged lack of policy enforcement can negatively affect a career.

The theft in May of a laptop containing the names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of millions of current and former military personnel put a spotlight on the VA's poor security track record and stirred debate over whether there was any policy in place that would have stopped an employee from taking more than 26.5 million unencrypted data records home to work on a project. The laptop was stolen during a burglary of the employee's home. By the time it was turned in to the FBI in late June, Pedro Cadenas Jr., the VA official in charge of information security, had announced his resignation from the department, and Michael McLendon, deputy assistant secretary for policy, had resigned.

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., has said that three VA documents indicate that the employee--a data analyst--was authorized to take a laptop and data home, contradicting an earlier statement by VA Secretary James Nicholson. Filner also criticized the lack of any VA security policy to violate and said in a statement, "That's the real negligence--that there were no policies."

Employee Buy-In
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