Laptops containing personnel information from departments like Veterans Affairs and Education keep going on unauthorized walks. Now it's the National Guard Bureau's turn, which alerted soldiers on Wednesday of a stolen laptop.
Ray Noller, a spokesman for the bureau, the Pentagon outfit that oversees the Army and Air Force national guards, told me that an Army contractor had a laptop containing personal information on 131,000 soldiers stolen on July 27.
Noller said information on the stolen laptop contained personal information on soldiers enrolled in the Army National Guard Bonus and Incentives Program. The data includes names, Social Security numbers, incentive payment amounts and payment dates.
The fact the contractor had stored this information on a personal laptop indicated that "security protocols were not followed," Noller said, but he declined to identify the contractor or where the laptop was stolen.
Noller said the National Guard Bureau has set up a Web site that will offer credit protection for soldiers concerned they have been compromised by the theft.
I don't know about anyone else, but to ensure my laptop is not stolen, I hide it if I am away from the house for an extended period of time -- and I never, ever leave it in the car.
This means that sometimes my laptop and I go shopping. I was coming back from a trip to White Sands Missile Range last month and stopped to buy cat food, with my laptop case perched on the top of a grocery cart which contained 25 cases of cat food.
I went to check out and got the inevitable question from the cashier: "You must have a lot of cats?" followed by, "Were you checking your e-mail while shopping?"
Better wise guy questions than a lost laptop.