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VA data theft affects most soldiers
Published: 2006-06-07

The massive database stored on a laptop and external hard drive that were stolen from the home of an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs last month could compromise the identity of nearly 2.2 million active-duty military personnel, the VA announced on Tuesday.

An initial comparison of data between the VA and the Department of Defense estimated that only approximately 50,000 active-duty personnel were affected by the data leak. On Tuesday, the federal agencies updated that finding significantly, saying the leak potentially affected nearly 80 percent of all active-duty personnel.

"As the two agencies compared electronic files, VA and DoD learned that personal information on as many as 1.1 million active-duty service members, 430,000 National Guardsmen, and 645,000 members of the Reserves may have been included in the data theft," the agencies said in a statement.

Last month, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that a laptop and external hard drive stolen from an employees home on May 3 had identity information on 26.5 million veterans, including names, birth dates and social security numbers. The federal employee had brought the data home against VA policy, the agency said. In late May, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs and the FBI announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to the return of the stolen laptop.

The data leak is potentially the largest loss of social security numbers to date. Last year, financial giant Mastercard International warned that a third-party credit-card processors, CardSystems Solutions, had lost information on as many as 40 million credit-card accounts after a data thief had used a security hole to tap into the processor's system. In early 2005, data broker Choicepoint warned that criminals posing as businesses had managed to access 145,000 detailed records on American consumers.

The two leaks joined a slew of other to make 2005 a bad year for privacy. The VA data leak will likely make 2006 even worse.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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