Sidebar 1-3: Record Record Loss
The record for number of personal records lost stands at 26.5 million.
Yes, 26.5 million records were on the hard drive of a laptop belonging to the U.S. Veterans Administration (V.A.) The lost data included names, addresses, social security numbers, and birth dates of all veterans who left the service after 1975, as well as any disabled veterans who filed a claim for disability after 1975, as well as some spouses. The data were contained on the hard drive of a laptop stolen on 3 May 2006 near Washington D.C. A V.A. employee took the laptop home to work on the data, a practice that had been going on for three years.
The unasked, and therefore unanswered, question in this case is why the employee needed names, social security numbers, and birth dates of all veterans at home? One supposes the employee was not going to print 26.5 million personal letters on a home computer. Statistical trends, such as number of claims, type of claim, or time to process a claim, could be determined without birth dates and social security numbers.
Computer security professionals repeatedly find that the greatest security threat is from insiders, in part because of the quantity of data to which they need access to do their jobs. The V.A. chief testified to Congress that his agency had failed to heed years of warnings of lax security procedures. Now all employees have been ordered to attend a cybersecurity training course.