TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Commerce Department Loses 1,137 Laptops

Commerce Department Loses 1,137 Laptops

Douglass K. Daniel (
Thu, 21 Sep 2006 22:10:44 -0500

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer

The Commerce Department has lost 1,137 laptop computers since 2001, most
of them assigned to the Census Bureau, officials said Thursday night.

The Census Bureau, the main collector of information about Americans,
lost 672 computers. Of those, 246 contained some personal data, the
department said in a statement. However, no personal information from
any of the missing computers has been known to have been improperly
used, the department said.

The number of people affected by the equipment losses could not be
determined, the department said.

"All of the equipment that was lost or stolen contained protections to
prevent a breach of personal information," said Commerce Secretary
Carlos M. Gutierrez. "The amount of missing computers is high, but
fortunately, the vulnerability for data misuse is low."

More than 30,000 laptops were used within the department's 15 operating
unit since 2001, the department said, and a total of 1,137 were stolen
or missing.

Fifteen handheld devices used to record survey data for testing
processes in preparation for the 2010 Census also were lost, the
department said. The department was in the process of contacting the
558 households with data recorded on the missing devices, although
because of encryption technology, the risk of data misuse was
considered low, it said.

A half-dozen other federal agencies or departments have reported data
thefts and security breaches involving personal information in the
last six months.

The Veterans Affairs Department suffered the biggest loss with the
theft in May of a laptop and external drive containing information for
26.5 million veterans and active-duty troops. Burglars stole the
equipment from the home of a Veterans Affairs employee, but the
computer was later recovered and showed no signs of having been
accessed for the personal data.

Other government departments reporting the loss of computers with
personal information include the departments of Agriculture, Defense,
Education, Energy, Health and Human Services and Transportation. The
Federal Trade Commission also has lost laptops with sensitive data.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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