Latest data security woes could cost VA $20 million

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After last year’s security debacle at Veteran’s Affairs over a stolen laptop containing large amounts of personal details of veterans and their dependents, the VA in January had another computer stolen that also contains sensitive information. In response, the VA has budgeted over $20 million to handle the recovery and response effort.

Last year the computer that was stolen was eventually recovered and did not appear to have been breeched, yet the hard drive more recently taken has not been recovered. According to reports, the computer which vanished from a Birmingham, Ala., hospital contains information on an estimated 1.3 million doctors and 254,000 veterans. About half of this information is considered potentially unsecured in the hard drive. The groups affected have been notified and will be given credit monitoring services and other assistance to aid them in case their information is unlawfully accessed.

Adding to the agency’s woes is its acknowledgement that its healthcare information system, VistA, does not have the sort of rugged data security system in place that is called for in today’s technology environment. Officials estimate that upgrading the system could take until 2015. The reworking will make patient health records electronically available online, but also provide appropriate security.