Department Of Energy Loses 20 Classified PCs - InformationWeek

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Department Of Energy Loses 20 Classified PCs

The agency's Office of Inspector General reported that 14 of the computers held classified information and the other six may have, as well.

A government counterintelligence office in charge of protecting information about nuclear technology from foreign espionage has lost 20 desktop computers -- most of them containing classified information, according to a report from the department's Office of Inspector General.

Fourteen of those missing desktop computers at the Department of Energy's Counterintelligence Directorate were known to hold classified information and the other six "may have" held classified information, Inspector General Gregory Friedman said in a March report. The government counterintelligence office is in charge of protecting information about nuclear technology from foreign espionage.

In response, the draft report recommends that the division strengthen internal controls over computer property; re-report previous incidents of loss to the Office of Security Operations; and, for future protection, properly mark computer equipment in the division as Unclassified, Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret.

This isn't the first computer loss for the DOE's Counterintelligence Directorate, which is part of the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Friedman noted. In 2004, some 269 computers were reported missing from the Idaho National Laboratory. In 2005, Los Alamos discarded an Apple Mac G4 computer only to have it sold at auction with its hard drive intact.

In the past four years, audits have found more than 10 incidents of lost computers that had been used in designing, building, managing, or administering nuclear technology.

In the initial inventory of 618 computers assigned to the directorate's headquarters, 241 were not immediately located. Eventually, all but the 20 were found. The audit report, which was released late last week, also showed that the "inventory records were so imprecise and inaccurate that the directorate had to resort to extraordinary means" to locate 125 of those 241 computers.

Friedman wrote that the computers should have been readily accessible if property records had been well maintained.

"Problems with the control and accountability of desktop and laptop computers have plagued the department for a number of years," he added. Friedman also noted that the missing computers need to be reported to the Office of Security Operations to initiate an investigation into whether the computers were lost or stolen.

According to the report, some in the department contend that the missing computers had been "excessed," meaning they had been discarded or destroyed. There is no supporting documentation about that, however.

In one instance, a computer was reported "excessed" but was later found being used in the directorate's headquarters. The report showed that it's still in use today.

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