VA Reminds Thief How Valuable Stolen Data Is

from the perhaps-not-the-best-plan dept

Earlier this week, we noted that the Department of Veterans Affairs seemed to be hoping that whoever stole a laptop and hard-drive with lots of veterans’ private info was too stupid to know what they had stolen. However, it seems they’re doing their very best to make sure everyone realizes it’s quite valuable. They’ve now put up a $50,000 reward for any info leading to the recovery of the data. Of course, should the thief hear about this, then what’s to stop him (or her) from simply copying the data and then figuring out a way to return the laptop and get the $50,000? Not that security through obscurity was likely to work in this case, but it seems sort of odd that they were so adamant that thief likely had no idea how valuable the data was — and then put a price on it and blasted it all over the news.

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Comments on “VA Reminds Thief How Valuable Stolen Data Is”

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Felix L Scott says:

Re: Re:

The professional press is out of control in this country. It has been so for a long time. I am a liberal Democrat and have been one my entire voting life. I am retired now. I realize that we need a free press. This is a Democracy, but use your head sometimes. We know how to keep some things totally secret. Sometimes we have a leak, but some things are so top secret the public will knew know what really happened. This is just too much information, but it is what I expected.

Mr.Clarke says:

Re: Re:


it’s the bird brain at the dept of veterans affairs that took the files home on the pc that is responsible for my name and social and claim number being compromised.

no one else, he or she is the one guilty of criminal behavior.

what’s that jerks name? that’s what i want to know.

so i guess i just keep paying Wells Fargo to monitor my personal information on the national credit bureaus.

I, for one. says:

Lost laptops

Reminds me of a notice I saw stuck to the inside of a phonebox in London, something like

“I lost my laptop here. If anybody found it please get in touch with me immediately! I will pay a reward. Very important – NO POLICE. Please DO NOT HAND IT IN TO THE POLICE”

and the guy put his phone number. LMAO

I wonder what was on that laptop? I resisted the urge to copy down the number for future entertainment.

Encrypted hard drives people!

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Yeah...

I tend to agree with the posts at the top. A definite faux pas, there, Mike. Twice, too, it seems.

Are you serious? It was the VA that lost the data. It was the VA who claimed that no one would know about it and it was the VA that then went out and told everyone how valuable it was and promoted it everywhere.

To blame *us* for anything is just bizarre.

Tim Arview (user link) says:

Re: Re: Yeah...

If someone makes a mistake, and you repeat the mistake, are you not responsible for your actions? Of course you are.

Yes, the VA screwed up. No one’s arguing that. What I (and others) are claiming is that you have repeated that mistake by posting the same reward and information here.

It showed up on my Google homepage for crying out loud! I didn’t even have to search for it!

But, hey, it’s your story. Tell it how you want.

Curtis Breuker (user link) says:


At least the VA is making an effort to attempt to recover the data. The $50,000 would be a pretty good incentive for someone to even turn in their friend.

It’s a pity organizations haven’t learned to protect their data, and keep employees from taking sensitive data like this home with them. At the very least the VA should of had a program on that laptop to call home the next time it got hooked into the net. Little late for that now though…

Anonymous Coward says:

not the press's fault

Not sure why Felix & Tim & others are putting any blame on the press or Techdirt or Mike.

The VA and the FBI are OFFERING A REWARD! They are asking for publicity in order to get people to call leads in to their tip line.

But how many of these types of incidents do there need to be before the companies with tons of sensitive customer data adopt some decent security policies?

concerned vet says:

I'm sure...

1. that the laptop in question has been destroyed

2. that the data on it is in the possession of someone who will use it for no good (i.e. organized crime organization of some sort.)

3. the guy who stole it is either dead or paid off.

They better not publish the idiot’s name. He’s got millions of veterans PO’d about it, and who knows how many of them have guns.

Petréa Mitchell says:

Re: The story that won't be told

“Is the VA IT staff so overworked they need to take home work?”

Most investigations into incidents where an employee does some boneheaded thing that any moron knows is a breach of security turn up the following:

  1. The employee did this regularly
  2. All the employees did this regularly
  3. Anyone who tried to do things by the book gave up because the tradeoff between security and productivity was too painful– either because it got the boss breathing down their neck about not staying on the project timetable, or because the security process was just too unwieldy to live with
  4. Management, the same management that kept approving the written security policy, was fully aware of how things really worked
Getting Warmer says:

Data Loss

The US is so concerned about being able to collect taxes that we are now at risk daily from information theft that we cannot see, prevent, or stop.

The VA should have 2 pieces of information, the ID of the Veteran, and where to mail the checks. Problem Solved.

Compartmentalize the data, then no single loss will result in significant risk.

tom says:

Business rules can and need to be put in place so

when are companies going to learn not to store sensitive information on laptops or PC.s there is no reason for this. This information can be stored on a secure network server. People loose or have their laptop stolen all the time. Business rules can and need to be put in place so this will not happen or at least makes it much more difficult. Companies should be forced to pay large fines for handling data so poorly and people should go to jail for covering it up or not reporting it in a timely manner.

dave says:

Last time I loosed my laptop it never came home!. But seriously folks, the press is bad for the people involved, but I’d glad we here about these incidents. Eventually (2089 by my estimates) we’ll stop allowing companies to verify our identity without actually verifying it. If you falsely verify someone’s identity…then you have verified nothing at all. I’ve not been hit by identity fraud (that I know of) and certainly a personal attack would stir anyone’s passions about this issue. So, rant at us, rage at your politicians and berate these companies/organizations that lose and misuse this data. Then, lets all calm down and figure out BETTER ways to operate.

I would not be opposed to a one time tax to pay for fraud prevention for our veterans. Without them, we wouldn’t have anything worthwhile to tax.

Thanks guys/girls for serving your country, hopefully your country can serve you now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Stolen Laptop

Oh for crying out loud… when the DOD changed our Service Numbers to be our SSN you had your SSN written on the face of every check you cashed at the Post PX or Navy Exchange.

Apply some common sense and flag your new vulnerability to the Credit Bureaus and quit worrying abou suing somebody. Sheesh.

Oh brother says:

And we call ourselves the most intelligent life fo

At least the one good thing is, they haven’t released to much information. The bad thing is now every criminal who has stolen a laptop will be looking at their “earnings” trying to see if they were the one. So, despite the press not releasing to much info, they’ve already released enough information to cause problems.

You have a security breach, don’t tell the press, go to the law enforcement agency and solve the crime, then tell the press once the breach has been resolved and the information is back in the right hands.

Or, go on TV or put an ad in the paper with let every reader/watcher know your SSN, DOB, Name and Credit Card number.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And we call ourselves the most intelligent lif

The Washington Post has printed the date of the theft, the name of the town (Neighborhood, actually, the fact that two breakins occurred within a few blocks of each with similar MO’s and the span of hours during which the break-ins occurred.

Terrible judgement.

Bizz says:

Reward System

Who would turn it in for the reward?

Kind of like the line from Pee Wee’s big adventure:

“Dottie – How are you ever going

to pay a reward like that?”

“Pee Wee – It’s simple.

Whoever returns the bike is obviously

the person who stole it.

So they don’t deserve any reward!”

What a shame that our vets are now further exposed to the possibility of identity theft…

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