Infamous VA laptop recovered, appears not to have been tampered with

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The federal government’s most famous stolen laptop, containing the personal information of up to 26.5 million veterans and current members of the U.S. Armed Forces, has been recovered and appears not to have been tampered with, the FBI said today in a statement.

An initial investigation has determined the sensitive information residing on the missing computer, including names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, was not compromised, the statement said. An unidentified person turned the computer and its external hard drive in to the FBI’s Baltimore office on Wednesday.

The news came days after the White House Office of Management and Budget called for tighter controls on government-controlled data to be installed in the next 45 days.

"A preliminary review of the equipment by computer forensic teams determined that the database remains intact and has not been accessed since it was stolen," the bureau said in a statement.

The FBI, however, cautioned that its investigation continues and will include a "throrough forensic examination."

The laptop was stolen May 3 from the Aspen Hill, Md., home of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) analyst in early May. He was later fired for leaving the office with the computer, a violation of agency policy.

But new documents now show the analyst had received permission to work from home with the data, according to published reports.

In announcing the laptop’s recovery, VA Secretary R. James Nicholson said today that there have been no reports of identity theft as a result, according to published reports. The person who turned in the laptop and hard drive, however, was likely not the culprit, reports said.

The theft prompted a personnel shake-up at the VA and a call for tighter security restrictions across all government agencies. One deputy assistant secretary resigned and an acting assistant secretary was placed on administrative leave. Days earlier, Nicholson had told members of Congress that he was "mad as hell" that he wasn’t notified of the breach earlier.

Despite the equipment’s recovery, Nicholson urged individuals affected by the breach to closely monitor their financial records until the investigation is complete. On June 21, the VA pledged it would provide one year of free credit monitoring for those affected, but it was unclear today if that promise would continue following the laptop’s discovery.

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