NASA has been informing workers and contractors this week that a laptop that had personal information was stolen. The information stored on the laptop included Social Security numbers and other details. The laptop was reportedly stolen from a locked car two weeks ago, and puts information on thousands of workers and contractors at NASA at risk.
Laptop belonged to an employee at NASA headquarters in Washington and while it was protected by a password, the contents of the computer were not fully encrypted. NASA has admitted that the information on the laptop may be accessible to unauthorized users. NASA is investigating the theft and has hired data breach specialists to follow up with individuals whose information was stored on the computer.
NASA associate deputy administrator Richard Keegan said that it could take up to 60 days for all the individuals whose data was lost to be contacted. NASA administrator Charlie Bolden has banned the removal of unencrypted laptops containing sensitive information from any NASA facility. Bolden also ordered security software upgrades for NASA equipment to be completed by December 21.
NASA has also previously warned employees about storing sensitive data on smartphones and other mobile devices. NASA will be offering employees affected by the breach free credit-monitoring services and other support. NASA has reportedly had 48 laptops and other mobile computing devices lost or stolen between April 2009 and April 2011. Many of those devices reportedly contained sensitive data.