A laptop and external hard drive stolen from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee that contained the Social Security numbers of more than 26 million veterans and their spouses has been recovered, says the Los Angeles Times. A preliminary review determined that the database remains intact and has not been accessed since it was stolen. The announcement did little to quell anger about the lapse in security that led to the unidentified V.A. employee taking home the material.
Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Internet Security Inc. was dubious about the government’s ability to ascertain whether the information on the computer had been copied. “Data is not the same as diamonds,” he said. “If we recover the data, it doesn’t mean the bad guys no longer have it.” The V.A. has spent $14 million so far to maintain a call center to answer veterans’ concerns. The agency is trying to fire the employee who took the laptop to his home Maryland, but he is appealing the dismissal. The Associated Press said the analyst had approval from higher-ups to use special software at home to manipulate huge amounts of data.