VA Secures Health Data on Laptops

Hard-drive encryption has at least made it difficult for would-be thieves to access records.

The Veterans Affairs Department hasn’t solved the problem of lost computers containing personal health information, but it has managed to contain the damage.
Six years after a lost VA employee laptop compromised 26 million veteran health records, hard-drive encryption has at least made it difficult for would-be thieves to access the information, according to a report by Federal News Radio.
"On the report that goes to the secretary every morning, we see missing laptops on a regular basis,” Roger Baker, VA’s chief information officer, said Aug. 2 in his monthly news briefing. “You can imagine the level of relief that a CIO has when every one of them says, 'but the laptop was encrypted.’  Because in our world that means it's not the CIO's problem anymore.”
It costs $1,000 to recover from the loss of an encrypted hard drive, he added, “versus something that's going to cost us a lot of money to identify any information that might have been on it and anybody who might have been affected."
A department review has confirmed that 99 percent of VA laptops are protected by hard-drive encryption, which the department required as of March 31, Federal News Radio quoted Baker as saying.
Breaches were still occurring in the months leading up to that deadline, including one in January that compromised the personal identity of more than 2,200 veterans, according to a report in Federal Times.