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9/22/2006
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Commerce Dept. Reports 1,137 Lost Computers

A study pegging the number of data and equipment losses since 2001 shows that the Census Bureau was responsible for the bulk of the incidents.

In the wake of a string of incidents involving lost data at federal agencies, the Department of Commerce announced 1,137 laptops have been lost, stolen or missing since 2001. The discovery was made during a recent departmentwide review of inventory that resulted from governmentwide Congressional and public inquiries. With the Census Bureau responsible for the bulk of the missing equipment and data, 249 of the laptops contained personally identifiable information (PII), though the agency said in a statement that access passwords, complex database software, systemic safeguards and/or encryption technology limits the possibility that data was accessed or misued.

A separate review revealed 297 instances of loss or compromised sensitive personal information between 2003 and today. These included 217 laptops, 15 handheld devices and 46 thumbdrives; the rest involved documents or other materials. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez said the agency will move to improve management, accountability, inventory controls, encryption and training.

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