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FBI Experiences Loss and Theft of Laptops

The Federal Bureau of Investigation loses three to four laptops every month either through theft or otherwise, says the February 2007 report of the Inspector General of Department of Justice (DOJ).

In the last 44 months, FBI reported loss of 116 laptops and theft of 44. The nation's highest investigative agency said in the DOJ's audit that it was handling the issue better than it did five years ago. In another audit of 2002, FBI lost 300 laptops and suffered theft of 17 over a 28-month period.

The field office at Boston reported that one stolen laptop contained software for developing identification badges. The Quantico Va.'s laboratory unit reported another stolen laptop containing names, addresses and phone numbers of FBI employees. The field office at New Orleans said that someone used a stolen laptop to process electronic digital imaging related to surveillance items.

According to the report, the most mind-boggling issue was that the FBI was unable to find out whether the lost or stolen laptops held sensitive or classified data. Such data could comprise personal identifying details, case information, or classified data relating to FBI operations, it said.

An official said several other laptops, lost or stolen, could have sensitive counter intelligence or counter terrorism information. In an additional bunch of 51 lost or stolen laptops, the FBI failed to determine if they had sensitive or classified data.

Principal consultant with KRvW Associates and earlier with the Defense Information Systems Agency, Ken Van Wyk emphasized it was important to isolate lost computers from the information they contain. Information Week published Wyk's statement on February 12, 2007. He added, although it is difficult to arrange, but since a traveling official carries electronic gar, he is likely to be targeted. But Wyk believes FBI uses whole-disk encryption that has low risk and also slim chances of being hacked.

According to Wyk, while the agency should strengthen its security, FBI's rate of computer loss would be similar to that of many large companies, he suggests.

FBI Assistant Director John Miller noted in a written statement that the agency brought down its rate of lost PCs.

Related article: FBI’s ICCC Annual Report Discusses Fraudulent and Non-Fraudulent Complaints

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