Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sensitive Information Breach at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Sensitive information related to approximately 1000 patients has been breached at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals. Although the compromised information did not include health related information such as diagnosis, prognosis or medical records, information related to names, addresses, social security information and other data has been compromised. Walter Reed officials were informed of this breach on May 21st by an outside company. The details on how this breach occurred has not yet been disclosed.

Data security has been a critical issue for government organizations. In 2006, the Committee on Government Reform had issued a detailed report on the government agencies that had faced some kind of data breach between 2003 and 2006. According to that report, all 19 Departments and agencies reported at least one loss of personally identifiable information since January 2003.

Agency/Department- Number of data breach incidents between 2003 and 2006
Social Security Administration- 3
Office of Personnel Management- 3
Veteran Affairs- hundreds of security and privacy incidents
Treasury- 340 incidents involving loss or compromise of sensitive personal information
Transportation- 1
State- 1
Labor- 3
Justice- 2
Interior- 8
Housing and Urban Development- 1
Homeland Security- 6
Health and Human Services- 24
Energy- 7
Education- 41
Defense- 43
Commerce- 297
Agriculture- 8

The letters received by the Committee from these departments showed that, in many cases, agencies did not know what information had been lost or how many individuals could be impacted by a particular data loss. The report also pointed out that in many cases the private contractors that many federal government agencies had come to depend on especially for information management services were responsible for the data breaches.

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