Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Password on laptop had been changed

By SHEILA WISSNER • Staff Writer Tennessean • January 16, 2008 A password taped to a laptop stolen from the Davidson County Election Commission had been changed and could not be used to access voters' Social Security numbers in the computer, a commission official said Tuesday. Election Administrator Ray Barrett gave the commission that bit of good news during a meeting called to get an update on the Christmas holiday break-in at the Metro Office Building on Second Avenue where the theft occurred. Barrett said that contrary to reports, a laptop left under a desk was inside a bag, not visible to a thief, and had an old password taped on top. The two laptops that were stolen were to be used during early voting to verify voter identities if the main computer system went down. One of the laptops was broken, Barrett said. Barbara Deneke, one of the 337,000 voters whose Social Security numbers were on the laptops, said after the meeting she had hoped to hear more about testing done on the computers. "I was concerned about whether or not there was any ballot testing software on the laptops and whether or not there was the possibility that anybody could compromise the actual election machines," said Deneke, a member of the League of Women Voters. Mayor Karl Dean has called for a government-wide security audit. The state comptroller's office decided Friday to conduct an examination of data security policies and procedures at the Election Commission and Metro's information systems department as they related to the Election Commission, said Richard Norment, assistant to the comptroller for county audit. Metro officials think the break-in occurred on Christmas Eve. Theft reveals problems However, Brendan Murphy, a security guard who later was fired, wrote in a Dec. 23 report that he noticed a roll-up window in what he identified as the "Codes Department" was cracked open and Christmas decorations were strewn on the floor. He said it was "unusual'' but wrote that he glanced in the window and that "everything seemed in place." The guard later admitted to listening to music and ordering food instead of making his rounds. But he said he did not believe the break-in took place on his shift. A second guard making rounds about 6 p.m. Christmas Day also noticed the decorations and roll-up window ajar but called Murphy rather than Metro security after reading his report. She said Murphy told her he assumed an employee had forgotten a key and climbed over the counter to get in the office. The second guard finally called Metro security after noticing the hallway getting progressively cooler. Her report said the break-in appeared to have taken place "Saturday night or early Sunday morning" when there were "no guards scheduled." Metro later reviewed card key swipes at the building that showed security guards had not entered the building on Saturdays for months last year even though Wackenhut billed the city for providing security. Wackenhut subcontracted those services to Specialized Security Consultants of Mt. Juliet.

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