VA Worker Took Data Home For Years Before Colossal Data Loss - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

01:49 PM

VA Worker Took Data Home For Years Before Colossal Data Loss

The agency admitted it doesn't know if that practice had been approved by the employee's superiors.

The Veterans Affairs analyst who lost 26.5 million veterans' identities when his home was burglarized had been taking data home since 2003, the department's inspector general said in testimony before Congress Thursday.

The agency admitted it didn't even know if that practice had been approved by the man's superiors.

VA Inspector General George Opfer told a joint hearing of the Senate's Committee on Veterans' Affairs and its Committee on Homeland Security that the unnamed data analyst had apparently taken confidential data home for years.

"The employee, a data analyst, was authorized access to sensitive VA information in the performance of his duties and responsibilities. He said that he routinely took such data home to work on it, and had been doing so since 2003," Opfer said during the Thursday hearing.

"The employee told us he took the data home for work-related purposes," Opfer continued, talking of the ongoing investigation his office is conducting. "However, none of his supervisors we talked to said they were aware that the employee had taken the file containing approximately 26.5 million veterans’ records to his residence."

Opfer's testimony was almost as much about what the VA now knows -- three weeks after the break-in -- as what it doesn't know.

"We are also identifying what VA electronic data the employee stored at his home, whether the employee had an official need for the data, why he took it to his home, and who in his supervisory chain approved or had knowledge that he had done so."

Opfer also laid out a string of criticism of his agency's IT security to the Senate, repeating what he'd said in a briefing report filed this week that said he'd noted "material weaknesses" in the VA's security provisions since 2001.

"The VA is at risk of denial of service attacks, disruption of mission-critical systems, and unauthorized access to sensitive data," he said at the hearing.

"By not controlling and monitoring employee access, not restricting users to only need-to-know data, and not timely terminating accounts upon employee departure, VA has not prevented potential risk," he went on.

On Thursday, authorities also announced a $50,000 reward for the return of the laptop and external hard drive stolen from the analyst's home on May 3. The VA employee lives in Aspen Hill, a Maryland suburb north of Washington D.C. The Montgomery County police department's Crime Solvers program is taking calls at 866-411-8477 for the reward, which was posted by the VA and the FBI.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
Top 10 Data and Analytics Trends for 2021
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  11/13/2020
Where Cloud Spending Might Grow in 2021 and Post-Pandemic
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  11/19/2020
The Ever-Expanding List of C-Level Technology Positions
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  11/10/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Why Chatbots Are So Popular Right Now
In this IT Trend Report, you will learn more about why chatbots are gaining traction within businesses, particularly while a pandemic is impacting the world.
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll