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Wanted: Missing FBI Laptops

If you lose your laptop, don't go crying on the shoulder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It has its own problems. The agency had at least 160 laptops lost or stolen over the past four years.

Ten of those laptops contained highly sensitive classified information and at least one included "personal identifying information on FBI personnel, according to a new report.

While the number may loom large, the agency actually has improved on keeping tabs on its wares. The report released today by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General was a follow-up to a similar 2002 report. The charter report found that the FBI had reported some 317 employee laptops as either lost or stolen over the previous 28-month period. Seventeen of those laptops were reported stolen. In 2002, the FBI had roughly 11 laptops stolen or lost each month. The agency currently mismanages an average of four laptops monthly.

It's worth noting that as many as 51 of the laptops reported lost or stolen since 2002 may also have contained classified data, but the inspector general's office said the FBI could not be sure. At least seven of the laptops were assigned to the agency's counterintelligence or counterterrorism divisions, the report notes.

It is not clear from the report how many of those stolen or lost laptops used encryption technology to safeguard the data. Only one individual case cataloged in the report details that encryption technology was used to protect data stored on the computer's hard drive.

The report recommends that future laptop-loss reports include information on whether the computer in question had protected data. The FBI agreed with that recommendation, and said it would make such reporting mandatory.

Now, if they would just make the use of encryption technology mandatory on government laptops, I'm sure we would all sleep a little more soundly.

By Brian Krebs  |  February 12, 2007; 2:33 PM ET
Categories:  From the Bunker  
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