Laptop theft exposes personal data of 131,000 Guardsmen
Stars and Stripes August 6, 2009
WASHINGTON — About 131,000 former and current Army National Guard members may have had their personal information compromised when a contractor’s laptop was stolen, Guard officials announced Tuesday.
The laptop, taken July 27 during a conference in Atlanta, included data on soldiers enrolled in the Army National Guard Bonus and Incentives Program. Files containing soldiers’ names, social security numbers, payment dates and bonus amounts were included on the laptop.
Randy Noller, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, said officials don’t have any indication yet that the information has been used to open new credit cards or go after soldiers’ bank accounts.
“At least for now, it just looks like somebody wanted to steal a laptop,” he said. “There’s no evidence that anything has been compromised, but we didn’t want to wait to notify our members about the possible threat.”
Local police are looking into the theft, and Guard officials are investigating whether the contractor broke any rules by carrying the files on the laptop. Noller said no other details of those investigations is being made public at this time.
All soldiers whose information was on the laptop will receive both an e-mail and a letter from the bureau explaining the theft, and state Guard officials are being provided with additional updates on the investigations.
In addition, the Guard Bureau is providing information on how to check credit records and guard against identity theft at its web site — www.ng.mil — and has set up a toll-free call center at (877) 481-4957 to answer servicemembers’ questions.
The bureau has not committed to offering any free credit monitoring services to affected soldiers, but Noller said that proposal “is part of the discussions about what we should do next.”
In January, the names, addresses, post office box numbers, and units of assignment of more than 6,000 troops and defense workers at RAF Mildenhall in England were compromised when an airman’s laptop was stolen.
And in 2006, personal information of more than 26.5 million veterans was jeopardized when a laptop was stolen from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee. Although the laptop was eventually recovered without any of the information being compromised, the incident prompted a major overhaul of the agency’s technology rules and practices.