Threat-Level Change: Hard Drives Containing TSA Data Are Not Permitted Through Airport Security Checkpoints
How is it that the federal government loses so many computers? Seriously, in the past few years it has lost enough laptops to start its own “One Laptop Per Child” program. From 2002 to 2005, the FBI lost 160 laptop computers, including 10 that contain highly sensitive classified information, according to an inspector general’s report, which notes that between three and four FBI laptops are lost or stolen each month.
Now comes word that the Transportation Security Administration has misplaced a hard drive containing Social Security numbers and bank account information for 100,000 TSA employees. Worse, the drive went missing from a so-called controlled area at TSA headquarters in Washington, D.C. No wonder the Department of Homeland Security (of which the TSA is a unit) scored a D on its latest Federal Computer Security Report Card.
“TSA has no evidence that an unauthorized individual is using your personal information, but we bring this incident to your attention so that you can be alert to signs of any possible misuse of your identity,” TSA Administrator Kip Hawley wrote in a letter to employees. “We apologize that your information may be subject to unauthorized access, and I deeply regret this incident.” To make amends, the TSA offered affected employees a year of credit-monitoring protection (as well as months of untold embarrassment and low morale).
But it’s going to have a much harder time making amends with the American public. “This is getting ridiculous,” the Washington Post said in an editorial today. “When it comes to safeguarding private information from the growing identity-theft industry, Uncle Sam’s track record is horrendous.”