WASHINGTON (AP) — Two laptop computers with detailed personal information about commercial drivers across the country who transport hazardous materials are missing and considered stolen.
The laptops belong to a contractor working for the Transportation Security Administration and contain the names, addresses, birthdays, commercial drivers' license numbers and, in some cases, Social Security numbers of 3,930 people, according to an Oct. 12 letter from TSA to lawmakers.
The contractor, Integrated Biometric Technology, told TSA that the personal information was deleted from the computers before they were stolen, the letter stated. But after the second laptop was stolen, TSA investigators discovered that a person with data recovery skills could recover the personal information that the contractor deleted. TSA spokesman Christopher White said none of the information on the computers has been misused.
News of the security breach came the day before TSA begins collecting similar personal information from employees with access to areas at the port of Wilmington, Del. The Transportation Worker Identification Credential Program is set to launch in Wilmington on Tuesday. Eventually 750,000 employees across the country with access to port areas will be required to submit information for background checks.
"We're outraged that on the eve of expanded worker screening for port workers, it appears that TSA and its contractors failed to protect the confidential information of other transportation workers who underwent similar background checks," said Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO's transportation trades department. But White said the TWIC program would be run through TSA computers and not the contractor's.
Since the two laptops were stolen, TSA has instructed the contractor to fully encrypt hard drives. The TSA program, called the Hazardous Materials Endorsement Threat Assessment, collects information for security-clearance purposes for any driver who transports hazardous materials. These assessments were mandated in the Patriot Act. Integrated Biometric Technology will provide one year of free credit-monitoring services to the 3,930 people affected.
Earlier this year, TSA lost a computer hard drive with sensitive bank and payroll data for 100,000 employees. The hard drive contained historical payroll data, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, time and leave data, bank account and routing information, and details about financial allotments and deductions.
"It would be nice if the department in charge of homeland security would actually be able to secure the data on their own computers," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. "Right now, the department's data privacy track record falls far short of what DHS employees and the American public expect and deserve."