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Another security review is under way, as Los Alamos continues to try and deal with physical data issues

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.

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You can stop hyperventilating now
By glad2begone on 2/15/2009 3:46:54 PM , Rating: 3
It is unfortunate that Los Alamos has lost some laptops. However, every large organization loses computers and phones. These are unclassified systems. Classified systems are controlled much more carefully. Staff members routinely take laptops while on travel and to home to do unclassified work (as do scientists at any other organization). Now Los Alamos will not allow computers to be taken out of the lab.

This is a good thing? People, please take a deep breath and try to realize that there is a lot of unclassified work that is done at Los Alamos and dedicated scientist do work very hard on those projects, and they do this even outside of the normal work day. The continual hyperventilating like this over minutia makes me very glad I left Los Alamos a couple years ago.

In addition, focusing attention on lost laptops (WITH NO CLASSIFIED INFORMATION) takes away from important issues like protecting CLASSIFIED INFORMATION.

Los Alamos should work to minimize losses like this, but this is not worth destroying the place as a viable place to do science.

By Josett on 2/16/2009 7:39:41 PM , Rating: 2
...focusing attention on lost laptops (WITH NO CLASSIFIED INFORMATION) takes away from important issues like protecting CLASSIFIED INFORMATION.

Actually, the concern should be on how a major R&D facility w/ highly sensitive stored data allows such media to be lost/stolen/taken, and not the normal procedures of any organization's employees.
The second issue is: How far is any 'non-classified' data from becoming 'classified'?


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