Wednesday, June 07, 2006

US Army data loss also affects active soldiers

Two weeks ago it emerged that a laptop and an external hard disk containing the data of some 26 million US veterans had been stolen from the home of an employee in early May 2006. The employee had violated Department of Veteran Affairs rules in taking the data home. (See the blog posting covering that event here and the latest information from the US government here).

Now the US Department of Defense has announced that the hard drive may in addition have contained the data of as many as 1.1 million active-duty servicemembers, 430,000 National Guardsmen, and 645,000 members of the Reserves.

In the meantime, the political battle over legislation concerning the issue of identity theft continues. Interestingly, a bill before Congress (HR 3997) seems to weaken rather than strengthen consumer rights in this field.

Update: As the Washington Post writes, the data stolen cover nearly 80 per cent (!) of the active duty force. Using them would enable the targeting of service members and their families in the U.S. through ZIP codes, or on foreign travels. There is a $ 50,000 reward for information allowing authorities to recover the laptop. And apparently heads have been rolling in the Department of Veteran Affairs, including that of the employee (who had been taking data home for three years) and his boss. A class action suit has been filed, demanding $ 1,000 for each veteran affected. At 26 mio. records, this could become very expensive for the administration if successful!

It is still not known whether the burglars know of the nature of the data in their possession; however, I would assume that not only the law enforcement side is now urgently interested in this hard disk...

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