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BlueWolf's Howl

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August 06, 2006

Free Credit Monitoring?

VA Employee's Stolen Laptop Recovered--But Don't Relax Yet

The laptop containing personal data of thousands of veterans has been recovered. The government says it doesn't look like the data was accessed or copied. But don't be so sure. Jul 13, 2006 - By Jordan Wiens

On June 28, the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs announced it had recovered the laptop and external hard drive stolen from an employee's home May 3. MSNBC reports the hardware had been sold out of the back of a truck in Wheaton, Md., about four miles from where it was taken. Soon after, the FBI issued a statement saying, "A preliminary review of the equipment by computer forensic experts determined that the database remains intact and has not been accessed since it was stolen."

That statement might make veterans feel better, but it's a false sense of security that's only as strong as a "1" or a "0" in a registry key. It's impossible to be certain that a copy of the data was not made--no evidence that the data was accessed is not the same as evidence that the data was not accessed.

When skilled forensic experts perform digital analysis, the first thing they do is make an exact digital bitstream copy of the hard drive in question, without modifying it. We discuss methods for doing just that in our review of network forensic tools. With one registry tweak, that hard drive could have been copied, bit for bit, without leaving a trace. Meanwhile, the V.A. said it will decide whether to offer free credit monitoring once it receives the results of the FBI's complete forensic exam of the equipment. -- Jordan Wiens, jwiens@nwc.com

Interesting that the VA might offer free credit monitoring. After so many benefits have been whittled away from Vets, it would be nice to get one that was unexpected - although they wouldn't give it to us unless they thought there was a verrrrrrry good likelihood that something *will* happen (rather than *may* happen).

Even if offered, I wonder how many would apply and use it? Perhaps few enough so that they can cancel it after a certain amount of time... (like the way they justified removing up-front payments for college since so few people were supposedly using it -- I was one of them using it at the time...)

I'm still not convinced that it was anything more than some dope stealing it because it was lighter to carry than the television set... But, still - I keep an eye on my credit reports -- which I did before this happened anyway.

Posted by BlueWolf on August 6, 2006 04:30 PM