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15 November 2012, 16:53

Data breach as a result of NASA laptop theft

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A laptop with data on thousands of employees and contractors has been stolen from a NASA employee's car. According to Reuters, the US space agency says that, while the stolen device was password-protected, its hard drive was not encrypted, making it relatively easy to access the information.

It is not yet clear how many data sets on employees and contractors are affected – Reuters reports that the figure is in the thousands. NASA has contracted a specialist consulting firm to identify and contact persons affected by the data breach, saying that the process could take up to 60 days due to the large amount of data.

It is not the first time an incident like this has happened at NASA. In March, it emerged that 48 of the agency's notebook computers and mobile devices were lost or stolen between April 2009 and April 2011, many of them containing confidential data. Earlier this year, a laptop with information on 2,300 employees and students was stolen.

NASA has now instructed its employees to use full disk encryption (FDE) to lock down hard drives on all devices that process critical data by 21 December. From that date, no unencrypted NASA-issued laptop or mobile devices can leave NASA facilities, regardless of whether or not they contain sensitive information.

(Uli Ries / fab)

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