Army command laptop missing

The Army's Accessions Command in Ft. Monroe, Va., reported a laptop computer with personal information on 4,600 scholarship applicants for the Reserve Officer Training Corps went missing Oct. 23.

The command just yesterday let the House Government Reform Committee know that the notebook went missing. The committee asked all agencies to report all data breaches since Jan. 1, 2003. Agencies had until July 24 to report their information, but the committee still is receiving reports of data breaches.

Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said the data was password protected using the Common Access Card. This means whoever allegedly stole the laptop would need the card and the user's personal identification number to access the computer. However, the data itself was not encrypted.

This was the first time the Army has reported a data breach, according to committee chairman Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.).

Davis, speaking today at an IT security event in Falls Church, Va., sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America, an industry trade organization in Arlington, Va., said the Army either has been 'that good or lucky or their information is incomplete.'

The Veterans Affairs Department incident earlier this year, when the laptop was stolen, "raised the threshold of awareness to just how vulnerable we are."

"There is a need for proactive breach reporting requirements," Davis said. "The history of withholding [news of] these events has to stop."

An amendment spelling out reporting requirements was included in the VA bill passed by the House just before the election recess, he added.

The lost laptop comes about a month after Army CIO Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle signed a memo outlining steps commands should take to protect personal information.

In a memo to members of Congress about the missing laptop, the Army said the notebook contained social security numbers, addresses, dates of birth and other personal identifiable information of ROTC applicants.

The Army said there is an ongoing investigation by the Criminal Investigation Command as well as a Commander's inquiry. Additionally, the Training and Doctrine Command reviewed physical security measures and implemented new ones to help prevent a recurrence, the statement to Congress said.

TRADOC also will send out a letter notifying applicants of possible data breach as well as monitoring and protective steps that can be taken against identity theft.

In the memo to Army commands, Boutelle directed them to immediately implement data-at-rest remediation procedures for all mobile information systems. These include:
  • Identifying and labeling laptops and USB devices designed for travel support, and securing the most vulnerable users and systems first.
  • Extend existing encryption capabilities to all systems at risk.
  • If a command does not have encryption capabilities, use Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP Pro Encrypting File System functions coupled with the command's Active Directory management structure to secure data through a centrally managed certificate issuance encrypting file system.
  • If the command does not have Microsoft's product, the should use either 'whole disk' encryption tools or 'file system' encryption tools from Credant Technologies Inc. of Addison, Texas, or PointSec Mobile Technologies of Lisle, Ill., which are approved products.

Boutelle also said the pilot data encryption program going on in the headquarters department will help develop the requirements and business case for a contract for an interim enterprise solution that addresses all users and systems by Jan. 1, 2007. This could be an enterprisewide licensing deal that would for any data encryption software, including those from Credant, PointSec and Microsoft, that are approved by the Army.

'The Army has been very proactive in this,' said Pete Morrison, Credant's director of federal operations. 'The have done a good job in providing guidance. This has been important to them before [the Office of Management and Budget] mandate or the guy at the VA lost the laptop. The Army takes this stuff seriously.'

GCN senior writer Patience Wait contributed to this story.

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