Monday, April 28, 2008

I-Team: 4 Stolen Metro Laptops Still Missing

Four Laptops From Separate Buildings Stolen Since 2005 Reported By Jeremy Finley POSTED: 12:12 pm CDT April 28, 2008 UPDATED: 6:18 pm CDT April 28, 2008 NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The I-Team has uncovered evidence of more stolen Metro laptops and new questions about private information security. In December, two laptop computers were stolen from the Metro Election Commission that contained the personal information of all residents registered to vote in Davidson County. The election commission laptops were found later without any private information being lost, but the thefts raised a slew of questions. After that incident, the I-Team found out what kind of private information can be kept on city computers and also about past thefts of city-owned laptops. Everything from Social Security numbers to private financial information were contained on four stolen laptops that were taken in 2005 and 2006 from separate Metro buildings. The election commission thefts were the first real crisis of Mayor Karl Dean’s administration. "The taxpayers, the voters deserve better," he said at the time. The crime exposed holes in Metro’s security with poorly guarded buildings and poor practices like storing sensitive information on hard drives and writing passwords on Post-it notes. Most people thought the thefts were a one-time thing, until the I-Team started digging. According to police reports and city documents from the past five years, the I-Team found that four more Metro laptops and other valuable equipment was stolen from Metro offices and none of it -- including the four laptops -- has been recovered. "Well, you know, seeing this, there's a problem," said Metro Councilman Michael Craddock. The I-Team reported that the laptops were easily taken from Metro offices, and security failed to catch the thieves in action or recover any of the computers. Two laptops were stolen from the Metro Finance Department in 2005, a laptop was stolen from the Metro Southeast Building in 2006 and a laptop was stolen from the Metro Arts Commission in 2006. All of the computers are still missing. The Metro Arts Commission is also in the same building as the Metro Election Commission, which means the election commission building had experienced a laptop theft just a year before the most recent break-in. "From looking at these past incidents, there seems to be a pattern of our buildings being somewhat non-secure," Craddock said. "If I had even one laptop missing from my company, I would be deeply concerned," said computer specialist Joe Irrera. As far as what was on the four stolen computers, city officials said not to worry. Dean’s spokeswoman Janel Lacy said the user of the Metro finance computers didn't save anything to her hard drive. Officials said the missing laptop from the Metro Southeast Building was blank. And the laptop stolen from the Metro Arts Commission had nothing on it, according to Metro Arts Commission Director Norree Boyd. "I don't believe it," Irrera said. Irrera said he has his doubts after the election commission incident because employees there did save Social Security numbers on the hard drives. "The whole mentality of just ‘trust us’ went out the window when that catastrophe happened," he said. Irrera said that even if the Metro employees using the stolen laptops believe they worked entirely off a server that it's nearly impossible not to save some documents to a hard drive. "How many of us receive e-mails with those attachments? Where do you save them? You save them to your computer," he said. "Do you feel there should be an investigation into these four other laptops that went missing?" I-Team reporter Jeremy Finley asked Irrera. "After what happened at the election commission? Absolutely," Irrera said. Dean’s office said there's simply no way to know for sure what was on the computers, but all the users said they didn't store anything on the hard drives. The I-Team has also learned that no one had to break into those buildings to get the other laptops. More on that part of the story will be reported Tuesday night on Channel 4 News at 6. Previous Stories: March 18, 2008: Mayor Demands Better IT Security For Metro March 6, 2008: Metro To Audit Building Security March 3, 2008: Lawmakers Look To Control Costs Of ID Theft January 22, 2008: Police: No Personal Information Taken From Laptops January 21, 2008: Police: More Arrests Likely In Laptop Thefts January 17, 2008: Suspect In Election Break-In Turns Self In January 16, 2008: Lawmakers Search For Answers After Election Theft January 10, 2008: I-Team: Wackenhut Uses Ex-Subcontractor's Guards January 9, 2008: Wackenhut: Subcontractor Responsible For Break-In January 8, 2008: Metro: Company Bills City For Unperformed Services January 7, 2008: Mayor Speaks About Election Building Break-In January 4, 2008: Fired Guard Says He's Break-In Fall Guy January 4, 2008: Some Say Metro Should Pay For Credit Risk Fix January 4, 2008: Passwords Taped To Election Computers January 3, 2008: Guard Fired After Election Commission Thefts January 3, 2008: Voters Given Advice After Computers Stolen January 2, 2008: Metro Security May Have Stopped Election Office Break-In January 2, 2008: City Criticized For Poor Computer Protection January 2, 2008: Metro To Send Letter To At-Risk Voters January 1, 2008: Security Of County Buildings In Question December 31, 2007: Residents Demand Answers After Computers Stolen December 29, 2007: Stolen Laptops May Contain Social Security Numbers December 27, 2007: Laptops Containing Voter Information Stolen Copyright 2008 by All rights reserved. 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