VMI tracking down computers that may still hold data [The Roanoke Times, Va.]
(Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 05--Some Virginia Military Institute computers sold at surplus auctions last month contained hard drives that were not wiped clean, in violation of procedure.
About 50 of the 369 computers sold during auctions on Oct. 5 and 26 could contain sensitive information, though spokesman Stewart MacInnis said VMI is fairly certain records considered protected information are not on any of the computers.
"Privacy type of information on employees and our cadets is supposed to be maintained only on servers. It shouldn't be downloaded or on any computer," MacInnis said. However, there could be sensitive information.
"Someone might have put a credit card in for Amazon. That would be a one-off. Or they might have been going somewhere on business for VMI and used a credit card to make a reservation," he said.
VMI learned that it sold hard drives containing data on Oct. 28 when one of the buyers contacted the institute. MacInnis said records indicate that the hard drives were erased for some of the computers, and there is a stack of hard drives that were taken from others. But VMI could not account for more than four dozen hard drives.
VMI had not hosted a surplus equipment auction in some time, so a number of computers formerly used by faculty, office staff and cadets had accumulated. Those used by cadets in computer labs are wiped clean every day, he said, so even if the hard drives were left intact, they would not contain information. But it is difficult to know what exactly might be on computers that were used by employees, he said.
For the past week, VMI has been tracking down the buyers of the unaccounted for machines to determine if they still contain hard drives and, if so, if data remain, he said.
By Monday afternoon, VMI had been successful in contacting the buyers of all but 16 computers. Some of the computers, though MacInnis wasn't certain how many, were brought back to VMI so that the hard drives could be wiped clean. He did not think any contained sensitive information.
"We have a procedure ... anything that has a computer memory that can store data is to be wiped clean, or more recently, is to be removed and destroyed physically," he said. VMI has yet to determine where the breakdown occurred.
"Our focus is on finding the computers," he said. But a review is under way.
"It's fair to say the procedures themselves seem to be very good," he said. "There's not a question that they'll be followed in the future."
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