TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Vast Data Cache About Veterans Has Been Stolen

Vast Data Cache About Veterans Has Been Stolen

Monty Solomon (
Tue, 23 May 2006 00:51:29 -0400

The New York Times

WASHINGTON, May 22 - Personal electronic information on up to 26.5
million military veterans, including their Social Security numbers and
birth dates, was stolen from the residence of a Department of Veterans
Affairs employee who had taken the data home without authorization,
the agency said Monday.

The department said that there was no evidence any of the information
had been used illegally and that whoever stole it, in a burglary of
the employee's home this month, might be unaware of its nature or how
to use it. The stolen data do not include any health records or
financial information, the agency said.

But it was immediately clear from the sheer numbers involved, as well
as the tone of the announcement and the steps taken in the aftermath
of the theft, that the breach was deeply embarrassing to the agency.

"As a result of this incident, information identifiable with you was
potentially exposed to others," Jim Nicholson, the secretary of
veterans affairs, wrote in a letter being sent to the veterans who
might be affected.

As measured by the number of people potentially affected, the data
loss is exceeded only by a breach last June at CardSystems Solutions,
a payment processor, in which the accounts of 40 million credit card
holders were compromised in a hacking incident.

But in that breach, any exposure could be addressed by simply
canceling those accounts. In the latest incident, three crucial keys
to unlocking a person's financial life - name, Social Security number
and date of birth - may have been set loose. Those cannot be canceled,
and a clever thief can use them to begin trying to open new accounts,
secure loans, buy property and otherwise wreak havoc on the victim's
credit history.


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