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VA Will Pay $20 Million to Settle Stolen Laptop Lawsuits

January 27, 2009 News 8 Comments

The Department of Veterans Affairs will pay $20 million to settle a class action lawsuit involving a privacy breach caused by a laptop stolen from a VA employee in 2006, according to a proposed settlement.

The laptop and its external drive contained names, dates of birth, and Social Security number of over 26 million military members and veterans. The equipment, stolen in a routine burglary of a data analyst’s home in Maryland who had taken it home without permission, was recovered by authorities, who concluded that its information had not been accessed.

The settlement will be paid to veterans who can show they were harmed or incurred credit monitoring expenses.

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Currently there are "8 comments" on this Article:

  1. I’ve been using a secured laptop for three years. The system we chose is free open source software that uses multi-layered encryption. Sensitive volumes can even be completely hidden to provide plausible deniability if the owner of the laptop is held hostage to open visible files. There is simply no excuse for keeping sensitive files on a laptop in any other way; I think this $20MM settlement may help get that point across.

  2. UNREAL! For that kind of settlement, please, somebody load my data onto a VA laptop, place iit on the sidewalk of skidrow and walk away. I can deal with the risk of my data being sold later.

  3. TrueCrypt (www.truecrypt.org). What we like about it is that it handles it all on the fly. Just have to login to an encrypted volume, then the files on it behave exactly as though they were unencrypted. You can hide a nested volume within a visible one and it can’t be seen by anyone, even when the outer volume is open; it opens with a separate password (thus the plausible deniability) when logging in to the outer volume.

  4. Michael, that $20MM is your money. Are you sure your payment fits the crime? There are stories abound of companies being hacked and credit cards and social security numbers stolen… with no penalties to the company (the harmful publicity may be enough). Are you sure you want your own Veteran’s Administration to be the poster child for using good security tools instead of TJ Max?

  5. I can’t argue with that, Todd, and I wish the settlement had gone differently. This is a big settlement in this area, and it may make an impact. Better that the VA had spent a million or two on security measures and training, of course, and better that the courts punish sloppy retailers as much as they seem to want to punish the VA. Better still… In the Old West they didn’t try to install power locks on palominos, they hanged horse thieves. Let’s have some severe prosecutions of hackers and identity theives. Maybe it would just be a deterent, but it would sure feel good!

  6. I have used Trucrypt for over a year and it’s great. I used Folder Lock and others before but TC is best…and it’s free! Folder Lock is junk and costs $25.

  7. On its face, $20M seems like a lot of money; however, when you look at the totality of the class, it is way underfunded. The settlement paperwork claims each person will recieve “at least $75” but that is not true. There are 26.5M potential class victims. You need to subtract the lawyers fee of $5M and the $18,000 for the original claimants, which leaves $14.98M. If only ten percent of the class makes claims (which is extremely low) that is 2.65M claims. If you divide $14.98M by 2.65M, you get $5.65. What a joke!

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