Saturday, January 5, 2008

Changes Sought In Election Commission Security

Posted: Jan 4, 2008 05:57 PM CST News Channel 5 NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Three citizens filed a class-action lawsuit against Metro, the security company and a subcontractor. The suit blames Metro for a not securing voter files. The citizens want Metro to pay for every voter's credit check. This comes after a burglary at the Davidson County Election Commission where laptops containing voters' information were taken. The election commission is beefing up security, according to elections administrator Ray Barrett. Barrett spoke to Metro's public safety committee Thursday. The meeting exposed major security flaws in the county's elections office. Officials said they are reviewing everything from building design to how information is stored on computers. Barrett said the office will never again be left vulnerable to theft. When asked if a user name or password was taped to the outside of the computer, Barrett said, "Some did have that, yes." Barrett was one of two administrators who answered questions about security procedures in the elections office. On Friday, Barrett showed NewsChannel 5 the 79 remaining laptop computers without passwords taped on the devices. The computers were securely stored in a warehouse near Nashville International Airport. The warehouse has several layers of steel doors and locked gates. These are layers of security not in place at the Howard building. On Christmas Eve, a thief or thieves smashed a window and stole two laptops employees were repairing in the office. The election commission office uses passwords to access the computers, but the computers don't have encryption. The office's digital video recorder was unplugged so it didn't record the burglary. Barrett said Thursday's meeting will result in some immediate changes on the computers. "We're not going to have Social Security numbers on any laptops," he said. "That's going to be the main thing." Barrett said Metro General Services, which manages government buildings, will look at security changes in the office itself. Voters such as Jill Thompson are happy to hear about the changes, but not happy about the long-term effects of the Christmas Eve computer theft. "You could have a lot of people with credit issues that could take years and years to resolve," she said. The Davidson County Election Commission said most of the letters informing all 337,000 voters of the computer thefts have been mailed. The cost to taxpayers is $109,000. Metro police have nine police officers working on the case. The security guard Metro Services feels didn't do enough to protect the office was fired earlier this week. The man, who didn't want his full name disclosed to the public, said he is scapegoat. He worked the Sunday before Christmas from 6 p.m. until early Monday morning. He thinks the break-in already happened before he arrived. "They needed a patsy and I guess I fit the bill," he said. He said he understands why his company had to save face, but believes they are making him out to be a lazy employee. He said that is not true. Anyone with information on the stolen Dell laptop computers can collect up to $1,000 in reward money by calling Crime Stoppers at 74-CRIME.

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