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VA Offers Free Credit Monitoring To Breach Victims

VA officials say one year of free credit monitoring will help safeguard those who may be affected by massive identity theft.

Gregg Keizer

June 22, 2006

1 Min Read

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday announced it would provide a year's credit monitoring service to the majority of the 26.5 million veterans, active-duty personnel, and spouses whose identities were stolen when a burglar walked off with a government laptop last month.

This week the VA will begin taking bids from monitoring vendors, said the department's chief, James Nicholson. "Free credit monitoring will help safeguard those who may be affected, and will provide them with the peace of mind they deserve," said Nicholson. Letters will go out the 17 million Americans whose Social Security numbers were included in the lost data to explain the program; by mid-August the affected veterans should have monitoring in place.

Nicholson also said that VA is soliciting bids to hire a company to provide data-breach analysis; that vendor will look for possible misuse of the stolen data.

On May 3, a laptop computer and external hard drive were stolen from the suburban Maryland home of a VA data analyst, who had taken home the hardware and data to work on a project after-hours. Nicholson, however, wasn't notified of the loss until May 16.

Congress has held several hearings on the VA loss, and has multiple data breach and consumer notification bills in play.

Earlier this month, the VA took other steps, including recalling all its notebook computers for a security audit. Next week every VA facility will close for a "Security Awareness Week" during which managers and supervisors will review security rules with their staff.

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