Missing Hard Drive Holds Sensitive Data On 535K Vets, 1.3M Doctors - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
News

Missing Hard Drive Holds Sensitive Data On 535K Vets, 1.3M Doctors

The Department of Veterans Affairs issues an update on its investigation into the January loss of a hard drive. The employee who lost it is on administrative leave.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that a hard drive that went missing last month actually may contain sensitive information on about 535,000 veterans, along with 1.3 million doctors.

The VA employee who had been issued the missing computer has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Earlier this month, the VA, which has been plagued by lost computers in recent years, revealed that in late January an employee at the Birmingham, Ala., VA Medical Center reported an external hard drive missing. That drive, said the worker, may have contained veterans' personal files, some of which may have been stored on the drive in unencrypted form.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., whose district surrounds Birmingham, said at the time of the initial announcement that as many as 48,000 veterans' records were on the drive, and as many as 20,000 weren't encrypted.

This week, the VA issued an update.

The VA's Office of Inspector General has been investigating the loss and announced it has determined that data files the employee was working with may have included sensitive VA-related information on about 535,000 people. The investigation also has found that information on about 1.3 million non-VA physicians -- both living and dead -- could've been stored on the missing hard drive as well. While VA officials say they believe most of the physician information is readily available to the public, some of the files may contain sensitive information.

In a statement on its Web site, the VA said it continues to examine data on the employee's work computer. Agency officials don't have any information at this point that the data has been misused.

"The VA will continue working around the clock to determine every possible detail we can," said Jim Nicholson, secretary of Veterans Affairs, in a written statement. "I am concerned and will remain so until we have notified those potentially affected and get to the bottom of what happened."

Now begins the arduous process of notifying people whose sensitive information may have been on the hard drive, according to the online announcement. The agency also is making arrangements to provide one year of free credit monitoring to them.

"The VA is unwavering in our resolve to bolster our data security measures," said Nicholson. "We remain focused on doing everything that can be done to protect the personal information with which we are entrusted."

In May, the VA said a laptop and hard drive containing 26.5 million personal records of current and former members of the military were stolen and that the identities were at risk for fraud. Although the hardware was later recovered, the incident led to a revamping of VA rules concerning information storage and use.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of IT & Cybersecurity Operations 2020
The State of IT & Cybersecurity Operations 2020
Download this report from InformationWeek, in partnership with Dark Reading, to learn more about how today's IT operations teams work with cybersecurity operations, what technologies they are using, and how they communicate and share responsibility--or create risk by failing to do so. Get it now!
Slideshows
10 Cyberattacks on the Rise During the Pandemic
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  6/24/2020
News
IT Trade Shows Go Virtual: Your 2020 List of Events
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/29/2020
Commentary
Study: Cloud Migration Gaining Momentum
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  6/22/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Key to Cloud Success: The Right Management
This IT Trend highlights some of the steps IT teams can take to keep their cloud environments running in a safe, efficient manner.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll