Another VA Computer Goes Missing

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2006-08-07 Email Print this article Print

Updated: Another computer containing veterans' information disappears. The VA says the computer could have information pertaining to as many as 38,000 veterans.

WASHINGTON—Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs announced this afternoon that a VA contractor has discovered that a computer containing information on as many as 38,000 veterans is missing.

Matthew Burns, spokesman for the department, said the contractor, Unisys, told the VA that the computer was missing from its Reston, Va., offices on Thursday, Aug. 3.

VA officials receiving the report immediately relayed it to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, R. James Nicholson, as well as to the agency's Inspector General, congressional leaders, the FBI and to the Department of Homeland Security's Computer Emergency Response Team.

"VA's Inspector General, the FBI and local law enforcement are conducting a thorough investigation of this matter," Nicholson said, in a prepared statement.

According to Burns, a security team was dispatched to the Unisys location as soon as the agency found out about the missing computer.

Click here to read more about the fallout from a previous VA computer theft.

Burns said that the information on the missing computer included veterans' names, addresses, Social Security numbers and birth dates, as well as insurance carriers, billing information and details of military service.

He said the information came from about 5,000 patients at a Philadelphia VA Medical Center, about 11,000 from Pittsburgh, Pa., and about 2,000 deceased patients.

In addition, the VA said it believes that about 20,000 more who received care at the Pittsburgh Medical Center may be included.

"VA is making progress to reform its information technology and cyber-security procedures, but this report of a missing computer at a subcontractor's secure building underscores the complexity of the work ahead as we establish VA as a leader in data and information security," Nicholson said in his prepared statement.

Burns said Unisys is cooperating fully with the VA in conducting the investigation. "Unisys will be working with VA regarding the notification of potentially affected veterans and the offering of credit monitoring. The company will continue to work with the VA and law enforcement to address this incident," said Unisys spokesperson Lisa Meyer in a prepared statement.

Ted Davies, managing partner, Civilian Agencies, for Unisys Federal Systems in Reston, Va., said that he hopes the situation is solved quickly.

"The sphere of where it might be is very small," Davies told eWEEK.

He said that Unisys, along with the VA, the FBI and Homeland Security are sifting through evidence to find the missing computer.

"I can't give out details, but it was a desktop computer," Davies said.

Read the full story on Another VA Computer Goes Missing

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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