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ID theft fears as VA loses another hard disc

Security breach veterans do it again

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A hard drive containing the personal data of up to 48,000 veterans is missing, presumed stolen, the Department of Veterans Affairs admitted last week.

The external hard disc was used by a worker at a VA medical facility in Alabama to back up information until it went missing on 22 January. Data included on the drive may have contained personal identifying information on some veterans, and data from research projects. Portions of this data were protected but others may not have been, sparking concerns that it might be misused for the purposes of identity theft.

It's the second time the VA has dealt with such an incident. Last May the theft of a PC from a VA affairs worker sparked a similar, albeit higher profile, security flap. That laptop and its hard drive were eventually turned in by a member of the public who bought it at a market. The VA doubtless hopes the latest missing drive will also be recovered.

The VA and the FBI are both investigating the latest case. Security experts from the VA's Office of Inspector General have seized the employee's computer and are analysing it in an attempt to work out what data is likely to have been exposed.

Alabama Congressman Spencer Bachus told AP that the personal data of up to 48,000 veterans was on the hard drive. Around 20,000 of these records were not encrypted, he added.

Pending results of the investigation, the VA is prepared to send individual notifications and to provide one year of free credit monitoring to people whose information was compromised. ®

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