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Who protects the military?

When you think of the military you think of people serving the country to protect you and all other citizens of the United States Usually they do this. Read on regarding a recent security issue.

Social Security numbers and other personal information for as many as 2.2 million U.S. military personnel were among the data stolen from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs analyst May 3, 2006.

The personal data for as many as 1.1 million active-duty military personnel, 430,000 National Guard members and 645,000 reserve members may have been included on the stolen electronic file. In addition to Social Security numbers the thief has access to their names and birth dates.

This loss is unprecedented and raises concerns about the safety of our military forces. To date law enforcement agencies investigating the theft have not found any evidence that the stolen information has been used to commit identity theft.

The broader concern is for force protection. For example, the information could be used to find out where military personnel live. If that data fell into the wrong hands it could potentially put the military personnel at personal physical risk.

Another worry is that the information could reach foreign governments and/or other hostile forces, allowing them to target service members and their families, the experts said.

Even though the loss was on May 3rd the Department disclosed the data on May 22nd. It was noted that the personal information was unencrypted on the external computer hard drive. A database comparison revealed data to include as many as 26.5 million veterans who were discharged after 1975 or submitted benefit claims, the bulk of active-duty military service personnel, as well as more than 1 million members of the National Guard and reserves.

Police did release a description of the stolen laptop and its external hard drive because the laptop may have been purchased by someone who does not realize the value of its content. It is possible the thief sold it at a yard sale or pawned it at a secondhand store. Hopefully this will bring up the awareness of citizens and bring about the safe return of the data.

Another action taken to return this property is the offering of a $50,000 reward for information that allows authorities to recover the laptop. The computer is a Hewlett-Packard model zv5360us and the external hard drive is an HP External Personal Media Drive.

The breach has outraged many for the extent of data at risk as well as for the 13 day delay in informing authorities. Perhaps there is some solace in knowing that the employee who had been taking home sensitive data for the past three years, without authorization, has been fired. His boss resigned last week and another senior official is on administrative leave pending investigations by the FBI, the VA inspector general and Montgomery County police.

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