Vets Rip VA And Data Breach Report - InformationWeek

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7/14/2006
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Vets Rip VA And Data Breach Report

The Vietnam Veterans of America says an Inspector General's report on the Veterans Administration data breach leaves too many unanswered questions, including why the VA was collecting all that data in the first place.

Vietnam Veterans say they want more than a scathing report on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs' poor handling of veterans' data. They want answers.

"What is astonishing about the VA Inspector General's report issued this week on the appallingly loose cyber-security of veterans' personal information held by the VA is that there is no mention of many of the key questions raised by Vietnam Veterans of America," John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), said in a prepared statement.

"For what purposes has the VA collected the volume of personal data on veterans and active-duty troops? Is this information held by other agencies of government? Has it been shared with private entities?"

The Vietnam veterans' group issued a statement from the VVA's National leadership Conference in Tucson Friday afternoon, saying they want accountability and real remedies since the recent VA data breach. They called for an independent oversight panel, under court jurisdiction, to monitor compliance with revised policies on cyber security.

Earlier in the week, the Office of Inspector General issued a report that criticized the VA's handling of information and IT security. It included a letter in which Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson promised that the VA would become a "Gold Standard and recognized leader in security of personnel information."

The Vietnam veterans' group, whose founding principle is "never again will one generation of veterans abandon another," praised Nicholson's efforts but added that top officials at the VA have ignored IT vulnerabilities for too long. They said remediation efforts have been ineffective and spotty.

"Veterans -- and all Americans -- must be assured that their personal information held by agencies of government is secure against inappropriate use or illegal access by agencies within government as well as outside entities," Rowan said. "Veterans, active-duty service members, and all citizens deserve no less."

Federal officials have said that they do not believe the information was accessed or used by the person accused of stealing the VA laptop, which contained information on an estimated 26.5 million veterans, as well as active duty members of the U.S. military.

The Navy has also reported that up to 100,000 of its members could be vulnerable to separate data breaches, including some reports that have surfaced since the VA made its loss public.

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