An Utter Disregard for

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2006-06-06 Print this article Print

Security"> "The veterans that I represent are seeking to fix this system. We want the courts to take control of this information and establish consensus minimal security standards," Rosinski said.

"You must protect your information to some minimal standard," Rosinski said, "The VA has stated that the data was not in any way encrypted. It boggles my mind that youd have 26 million records of any kind that arent encrypted. That cannot be allowed to occur.
"All of this indicates complete and utter disregard for security," Rosinski added.
The Vietnam Veterans of America is a party to the suit, and the organization underlines the feeling that the action is designed to fix the problem. "Weve struggled for years to get some degree of privacy protection at the VA, and we never have," said Rick Weidman, executive director for Policy & Government Affairs. "Theres been a succession of secretaries who have tried to get a grip on that culture, and nobodys been successful." Weidman said what concerns his members even more than the loss of data is that the information that the VA lost was in many cases information it was never supposed to have. "They had Social Security information for people who had never applied to the VA for anything," Weidman said. He said there are other questions that must be answered as well. "Why did this employee have this information at home? What kind of projects were they working on?" Weidman asked. "It was not encrypted; it was not coupled with a need to know." Weidman added that there have been no satisfactory answers. "We want to make sure that this time, no more," Weidman said. "With court supervision we can call a halt to all of the problems of the past and make sure each step is taken carefully." Weidman said that the suit was not really anti-Nicholson (referring to Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson, who was named a defendant in the suit along with the department he heads). "Were attacking the issue, not the secretary," Weidman said. Weidman noted that the real problem with the VAs failure to protect veterans data is due to a culture that simply refuses to take the problem seriously. Laptop theft stings the YMCA. Click here to read more. He said that over the years, VA secretaries, Congress and the White House have tried to correct the problem, but that the bureaucracy has simply not budged. "Every secretary that I can remember has gone through this," Weidman said. "None has been successful." Weidman said the inability to solve the problem was the reason why the VVA and the other groups decided to involve the courts. "We have to have every tool needed to get a handle on this business," he said. The Department of Veterans Affairs declined to comment on the lawsuit. Montgomery County, Maryland, police announced June 6 that there is a $50,000 reward for the return of the missing laptop and its hard drive. Police describe the computer as a Hewlett-Packard ZV5360US with an external personal media drive. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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