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Security flap after US Navy loses laptops

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A pair of laptops containing the personal data of around 31,000 US Navy personnel officers and potential recruits were separately stolen from two New Jersey recruitment offices over the last two months.

The Navy said that sensitive data on the machines was password protected in both cases. Around 4,000 of the records held on the PCs contained social security numbers. The Navy is seeking to play down identity theft fears arising from the thefts.

"There have been no reports of illegal usage of personal data identified by these incidents," Navy spokesman Lt. Bashon W. Mann told AP, adding that precautionary steps were being taken to identify and notify affected parties. Civilian and Navy police are investigating the thefts, the first of which only came to light following an inventory check after the second laptop went missing.

The incidents are the third time personal information held by the US Navy has become the subject of an information security flap over recent months. Earlier this month, the social security number and other personal details of around 100,000 naval aviators was exposed on a Naval Safety Centre's website. In June, sensitive personal data on around 26,000 sailors was similarly exposed via a civilian web site. ®

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