When the National Archives lost a hard drive containing records from the Clinton administration, they also realized more than 100,000 social security numbers were missing.The 2-TB Western Digital MY BOOK external hard drive was determined to be missing from the National Archives' complex in College Park, Md., on March 24. According to congressional officials, it contains political records, logs of social events and other gatherings, information about Secret Service and White House operating procedures, and the names, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers of White House staff members and visitors.
One of the individuals who has had her social security number potentially exposed? Former Vice President Al Gore's daughter.
Embarrassingly, the Archives acknowledge at least 100 people had access to the area where the hard drive was left unsecured, including janitors and visitors.
And now, the administration is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the return of the missing drive. Hmmm. Fifty grand for 100,000 social security numbers? My gut feeling is that if the data fell into the wrong hands, it could be a worth a lot more than that.
Had proper full disk encryption been used on the drive -- meaning that even if lost or stolen, no one would have been able to make any sense of its contents -- there would be a lot fewer red faces.
More and more organizations are recognizing the need for proper encryption security on their disk media in case devices are accidentally lost or deliberately stolen; one would hope this lesson was one the body charged with handling some of the most sensitive secrets of past presidencies already knew.
Those with information about the missing hard disk are invited to call the Secret Service at 202-406-8800.
Graham Cluley is senior technology consultant at Sophos, and has been working in the computer security field since the early 1990s. When he's not updating his other blog on the Sophos website you can find him on Twitter at @gcluley. Special to Dark Reading.