Los Alamos stung by loss of scores of laptops

Emergency inventory reveals that 67 laptop PCs are missing

The Energy Department's Los Alamos National Laboratory has been stung by a leak of another loss of laptop computers. In a leaked memorandum, the contracting agency managing the lab admitted that 67 laptops are unaccounted for, including 13 in the past year.

The memo was written in response to the fact that, in January, three computers were stolen from an employee's Santa Fe, N.M, residence.

Only one of the three computers was authorized for home usage, said Jeff Berger, a spokesperson for the lab. As a result of this loss the lab, which is managed by Los Alamos National Security LLC, conducted an inventory of all its computers and found that 67 went unaccounted for, including the three recently stolen ones.

According to Berger, seven of the computers that were stolen during 2008 and 2009 contained personally identifiable information or official use only information. None of the three computers stolen in Santa Fe has personal or official use only information.

The Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit organization dedicated to uncovering government malfeasance, posted the memo, which was leaked anonymously.

This latest leak comes less than a month after POGO posted another lab e-mail sent in January, stating that a Blackberry had been lost in "a sensitive foreign country."

In 2003, the Energy Department's inspector general faulted the lab for not being able to locate 22 laptops during an audit.

The lab is currently reviewing all employee home computer usage to ensure all remote computers are being used within policy guidelines for home use, Berger said.

Overall, the lab has more than 40,000 servers, printers, personal digital assistants, desktop computers, laptops and other computational devices, all of which are bar-coded. In its contract with the National Nuclear Security Administration, Los Alamos National Security LLC must have full accountability of at least 98.7 percent of these bar-coded items at any given time. Each year, the organization submits an independently validated inventory report to NNSA. The lab has averaged a 99.5 percent accountability in this report, Berger said.

"We want it to be 100 percent, and that is what we strive for," Berger said. "The fact is we do have computers that get stolen."

Absolute Software, a provider of laptop theft-management software, has estimated that the average percentage of laptops organizations lose due to theft is between 3.5 and 5 percent.

NOTE: This story was corrected on February 18.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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