August 7, 2006 7:14 AM PDT

Teens arrested in VA laptop theft

Maryland police arrested two teens on Saturday in connection with the theft of a laptop and external hard drive with information from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The laptop and external drive, which were both taken in a May 3 burglary, contained personal and financial information on more than 25 million veterans, active-duty military personnel and their spouses.

According to a police statement, the accused said they were unaware that the laptop and hard drive contained sensitive data until the theft was publicized in the news.

The Montgomery County Police Department said in a statement that the two Rockville, Md., natives, Jesus Alex Pineda and Christian Brian Montano, both age 19, were charged with first-degree burglary and the theft of items worth more than $500. Montano was also charged with conspiracy to commit the crimes. Charges are also pending on a third suspect, who will be treated as a juvenile.

The county police have been working with the FBI and the Veterans Affairs Department's Office of Inspector General on the case. They received a tip on June 28 that led to the recovery of the stolen laptop and hard drive. The police and FBI continued pursuing the case. A break in the case on Friday led police detectives to the Saturday arrests.

The stolen laptop was a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion ZV5360, and the external hard drive was an HP PC170.

The theft of sensitive information along with hardware, a recent problem for both the government and the private sector, has prompted outrage and subsequent tightening of security standards in some organizations.

On June 23, the Office of Budget and Management, which operates under the White House, gave government agencies 45 days to comply with new standards for the retrieval and storage of sensitive data. Accounting firm Ernst & Young, which lost data on 243,000 Hotels.com customers through a laptop theft, installed password protection and encryption software on its employees' laptops in May.

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8 comments

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Why was data kept on there?
Who thought that keelping sensitive data on a laptop and better yet, on an external harddrive.

Basic commom sence would tell you that the larger the item, the hardder it is for someone to walk off with it.

I hope they at least had it encripted somehow and that they have re-thought how they manage their sensitive data since then.
Posted by startiger (50 comments )
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Why WERE data kept on there?
It's "Why WERE data kept on there?", startiger. Data is the plural form of datum.
Posted by UpajOs (88 comments )
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3.5 Months Later....why now?
To respond to your statement startiger, of course the data wasn't encrypted, because if it was we wouldn't have been hearing obnoxious ploys for the past 3.5 months about this. I am sick and tired of hearing different information on this stupid laptop, yes the VA was dumb and let this information get out, but this has to be at least the 3rd or 4th different story on how they got it back.

First it was claimed that someone turned in the laptop that he bought from the back of a truck when he saw the $50,000 reward. Now they are saying that there was a tip that allowed the government to somehow get the data back...oh and they've yet to specify exactly how they got it back on June 28th. Get your story straight because I am having trouble believing a darn thing that the government announces these days.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.techknowbizzle.com/2006/07/times-getting-even-tougher-for-vets.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.techknowbizzle.com/2006/07/times-getting-even-tougher-for-vets.html</a>
Posted by Nkully86 (59 comments )
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scapegoats
If these 19 year old "boys" are getting the book thrown at them, so should the rest of those at the VA who had the bad judgment to not protect the sensitive veteran's data <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=79" target="_newWindow">http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=79</a>

So, Nkully86, do you think they're just convenient scapegoats for the government?
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
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Laptop Was Found In The Texas School Book Depository
I understand from an inside source that the stolen laptop was found on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository by an Officer Tipme. There was no boot operating system, but all indications are that the data(um) was not tampered with.
Posted by CancerMan2 (74 comments )
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