26 million veterans harmed by VA carelessness
After soldiers serve our country at the risk of their lives, setting high the limits of human courage and devotion, our Veterans Administration does what, in reward?
Thief Steals 26.5 Million Veterans’ Identities… an information technology worker at the VA Admnistration took a laptop home, containing the personal records of 26 million discharged veterans. This information includes Social Security numbers and dates of birth, just what’s needed for identity theft. It’s really, really bad, especially that someone broke into the guy’s house and stole the laptop…
It’s especially egregious that the VA kept it a secret for 19 days afterward, since the best defense against identity theft is if the potential victim takes action to monitor their accounts and put a fraud watch on their credit activity.
I have written before about this kind of carelessness and what kind of havoc it can wreck on the lives of people who entrust companies with it. There are a few simple rules – the most important being, datasets like that should never be on a laptop in the first place (it wasn’t even encrypted!). If it absolutely must be accessed from offsite, a SSL+VPN is called for. And if, on review, there is NO OTHER WAY to proceed than by carrying the dataset on a portable device, strong encryption is called for.
This was not exactly a fluke – the worker had been doing the same thing for years, apparently with the knowledge of his superiors (who are now backpedaling furiously). The Veterans Administrations has also received warnings about this very problem, and apparently ignored them.
What does it take for institutions to at least act as if they care? Practically every institutional disaster in history has followed some variation of “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine” and even punishing those who say otherwise.
How about; “Pretend this is YOUR data and you could have your financial identity stolen”. What should happen to the guy who took home the laptop? His supervisor? The group that wrote the VA’s data security regulations?
And to the veterans, especially the 26 million whose data was stolen, thank you. You deserve so much better than what you get, seemingly every time you turn around.
Photo of 3 American flags hanging from giant cranes on I-74 between Bloomington and Urbana, Illinois, this afternoon.