VA to offer free credit monitoring

The Veterans Affairs Department will provide one year of free credit monitoring to people whose sensitive personal information may have been stolen in the recent theft of sensitive data from an employee's home. The credit monitoring will become available in mid-August.

'Free credit monitoring will help safeguard those who may be affected,' VA secretary Jim Nicholson today at a briefing for reporters

VA this week will solicit bids from companies on an expedited basis to provide comprehensive credit monitoring. VA will send a detailed letter in mid-August to those whose sensitive information may have been included in the stolen data, with details about credit monitoring and how they may opt in for the service.

Additionally, VA plans to hire a contractor to provide data breach analysis, which will look for possible misuse of the stolen VA data. The contractor would provide more intensive and continuous monitoring than VA has been able to do, Nicholson said. The analysis would help measure the risk of the data loss, identify suspicious use of identity information and expedite full assistance to affected people.

VA programmed $25 million for the initial mailing to notify affected individuals and for service calls at call centers, Nicholson said. Of that, VA has spent $14 million so far'$7 million for the letter and $7 million for the call centers. VA sent letters to 17.5 million individuals, the number distilled after accounting for duplication, invalid Social Security numbers and deceased individuals.

'There haven't been as many calls as we expected. There is concern, starting here at VA, but there's not panic,' Nicholson said. Since May 22, the centers have logged 200,000 calls, a VA spokesman said.

VA is no closer to recovering the laptop, but federal investigators believe it is unlikely that identity theft has resulted from the data theft, Nicholson said.

To emphasize the importance of security, VA is planning a departmentwide Security Awareness Week beginning June 26, and annually thereafter. VA will conduct briefings with employees to address the proper and secure use of equipment at home, reminders of the impact of data security failures, proper handling and disposal of sensitive data in electronic and paper forms, and the consequences to individuals of data breaches.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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