The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is being heavily criticized again regarding improper security measures that have led to stolen computer hardware over the past year.
In the past year, 13 computers have either been misplaced or stolen along with 67 computers that are missing right now. In another incident, a Los Alamos employee had three computers taken from his or her home, without officials announcing why the computers were allowed to leave the labs. In addition, an employee lost his BlackBerry smartphone "in a sensitive foreign country," with similar incidents becoming too commonplace for a nuclear weapons laboratory.
"The magnitude of exposure and risk to the laboratory is at best unclear as little data on these losses has been collected or pursued given their treatment as property management issues," the memo stated. It further ordered the Los Alamos lab to "treat any loss of computer equipment with the capability to store data as a cyber-security concern," the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) watchdog group said in a public memo.
A total of 80 computers have been misplaced or stolen throughout 2008, with 11 successfully recovered. Although no classified information has been lost, according to Los Alamos spokespeople, it's a troubling trend that still hasn't been properly fixed.
The theft incident last month involving three computers at an employee's home led the lab to have a month-long inventory and review of guidelines regarding work computer usage at home.
Despite recent data breaches, the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration applauded the laboratory for working "diligently over the past year to complete the demanding requirements of the Secretary's Compliance Order," among other security successes.
Government officials expect Los Alamos to be one of the most secure labs in the country, yet simple security issues continue to plague the lab -- they've enacted numerous security precautions, and will have to again try and figure out what is not being done properly.
For example, the federal government criticized lab officials when a trailer of a former subcontractor at Los Alamos was searched and three USB flash drives containing classified nuclear data were found inside. A year later in January 2007, sensitive materials regarding nuclear materials were e-mailed over an open, unsecured network, which was a serious breach of protocol.