Now where did I leave that laptop?

All the security policies and technologies in the world won't do much good if you load sensitive information on a laptop PC and leave it somewhere. Just ask officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

According to a report released last month by the Justice Department's inspector general, ATF lost 418 laptop computers from 2002 to 2007. The bureau also lost 76 weapons and doesn't seem to be doing too well at keeping track of the explosives it stores. No word on how well its employees can handle their alcohol.

At least some of the missing computers contained sensitive information, such as unencrypted lists of names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and financial transactions. But it is impossible to say how much of that kind of information was lost because bureau officials do not know what was on 398 of the missing laptop PCs.

I can't help but wonder why agents needed to carry that kind of information around with them. Call me na've, but I would hope that if it was necessary for them to take the information with them, they would pay more attention to protecting it. But I guess that's too much to ask of people who leave their guns in the restroom or on the roofs of their cars as they are driving away.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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