VA to encrypt notebook PCs

The Veterans Affairs Department immediately will begin to upgrade all of its computers with enhanced data security encryption systems to protect sensitive data on veterans.

Actual encryption of notebook PCs is scheduled to begin Aug. 18, VA said today. The agency expects to have 100 percent of its notebooks fully encrypted within four weeks.

VA awarded a $3.7 million contract last week to Systems Made Simple Inc. of Syracuse, N.Y., a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business, to implement encryption products from GuardianEdge Technologies Inc. of San Francisco and Trust Digital of McLean, Va. Merlin International is the integrator.

SMS will use the GuardianEdge Encryption Anywhere Data Protection Platform for encryption of hard disks and removable storage devices, and Trust Digital Mobile Edge Device Security for personal digital assistants and smart phones. Combined, SMS will encrypt about 300,000 PCs and mobile devices.

The Encryption Anywhere Platform supports multiple endpoint encryption software applications and integrates with Microsoft Active Directory. Doing so lets organizations use their existing identity and desktop management infrastructure to protect data stored on notebooks, desktops and removable media.

'I have promised America's veterans that I intend to make VA information security a model of data security and this expedited encryption program is a major step in that direction,' said VA secretary James Nicholson in a statement.

The encryption program is in response to a data breach that occurred in May, when thieves stole a notebook and hard drive that contained personal data on millions of veterans and active-duty service members from the home of a VA employee. The items have since been recovered and arrests were made in the case.

All notebooks across the entire VA system will receive the critical data security encryption programs, followed by desktop PCs. Portable media such as flash drives and CDs are also included in the security encryption program. Final testing of the software is underway. VA is developing implementation and training materials.

While the notebook and desktop computer encryption program is underway, Nicholson has also directed advanced enterprise encryption applications to be explored as a follow-on, including all VA servers and data centers.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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