Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Oops... It Happened Again

Well now. This sounds familiar doesn't it? The Department of Transportation is reporting that apparently, since 2001, nearly 400 laptops have been stolen from the agency. That means that the information of roughly 133,000 people is out there and has likely been compromised. This comes on the heels of the debacle with the Department of Veteran's Affairs and the Department of Commerce. Now I don't think that these incidents are all the work of terrorists. Some of it might be but on the whole, I think they are the work of someone with too much time on their hands and the bright idea that selling stolen laptops is the key to riches. Whatever their motivation is, one thing is for certain. We need to make sure that this information remains secure rather than having it available to anyone who may manage to get their hands on a particular laptop.

I have worked in companies that have had contracts where the work was considered to be sensitive. The work was either done in a secured room or in a secured facility where access into and out of the building was limited to only those who needed to be there. By secured I mean that access to the room was limited to those with the need to be in the room. The rest of us remained outside, oblivious to what was going on inside. If not by access card, admission into these secured areas was often maintained by a security guard who took his or her job very seriously and didn't let anyone unauthorized in. Now I can't believe that our agencies in the federal government don't have similar setups.

So how is it then that these laptops are being stolen? Well some like those at the Department of Veteran's Affairs were stolen from the individual's home. Others are lifted off of a desk at the office. How can that be? Ever lifted a pencil or eraser or the stapler from the office copy room? Ever walked by a co-worker's desk and seen their purse or wallet just sitting there out in the open? You know the person so you wouldn't take it right? Or maybe you would. But this is exactly what thieves are looking for. The opportunity to take something when your attention is diverted. This past weekend at the mall, I witnessed a theft. As I was exiting the mall a woman dressed in the uniform of a Foot Locker employee was briskly walking after an individual who exited the mall ahead of us. As soon as the pair hit the street they were off and running.

We didnt' realize it at the time but had we known what was happening, we would have run after the thief too. But it just reminded me of how these laptops are being stolen. And it leads me to believe that the majority of these are not being stolen for any purpose other than to be sold off or used else where. I mean take a look at James Bond. When he breaks into a computer system, he leaves the system but uses some device or the other to gather the data he needs or leaves something behind that will monitor the information for him. By taking one laptop, you won't draw much attention. By stealing 400 over a period of time, someone's going to notice.

The key is that valuable personal information is getting loose out there. It may not be your personal information but it is someone's and there's no need for it to get leaked out this way. When you read the news you're constantly bombarded with news items about who leaked what information about what scandal. What did the FBI know? What did the senator know? What did anybody know? All I know is that we need to do a better job of safeguarding the personal information of all our citizens. If we can't secure our personal information, how can we expect to protect our borders?


Post a Comment

<< Home