The US Department of Veterans Affairs has admitted that confidential information on up to 26.5 million former soldiers has been stolen from the home of one of its data analysts.
The electronic data contained identifying information including names, social security numbers and dates of birth and disability ratings for the veterans and some spouses.
The information was stolen after a data analyst – who was not authorised to take the records home – was burgled. The analyst is now administrative leave pending an investigation by the FBI and the department’s own Inspector General’s office.
The VA department said it was believed to be “unlikely” that thieves targeted the data because they knew its contents. “It is possible that they remain unaware of the information which they posses or of how to make use of it,” the department said in a public announcement.
Notification letters are being sent to veterans “to every extent possible”, it added.
In March, a US Congress committee released a damning “report card” on US government computer security, with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs receiving the lowest possible grade – F – for the second year running.
The Committee on Government Reform security report card is based on reports by chief information officers in each government agency on their compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act (Fisma).