Computer thefts prompt Los Alamos security review

Department of Energy criticizes nuclear research lab for lack of controls

The NNSA letter, dated February 3, criticized the lab's response to the missing systems, and the apparent lack of controls aimed at preventing such incidents. The letter noted that follow-up inquiries about the January incident revealed that as many as 67 Los Alamos lab computers were currently listed as "missing" from the lab, including 13 that were known to be lost or stolen.

The memo chastised lab officials for treating the lost computers as purely a property management issue, and not informing the DOE immediately after the problem was discovered. The memo said that the DOE concluded that there are significant security weaknesses, as well as configuration management and accountability issues the lab. It also cited uncertainty about the "magnitude of exposure and risk" resulting from such losses.

Berger, however, contended that POGO and some news reports on the missing computers have "distorted the situation." He noted that Los Alamos employees and on-site subcontractors use about 40,000 computers and related equipment, including desktops, laptops, servers, printers, PDAs and other handheld devices.

Under NNSA requirements, The Los Alamos lab must account "for at least 98.7 percent" of its bar-coded property, including computer equipment, Berger said. "Over the past several years [Los Alamos] has consistently exceeded that requirement, accounting for 99.5 percent or more of its bar-coded property. The results of these annual inventories are independently validated by the NNSA's Service Center in Albuquerque as part of its annual assessment of LANL's property management system."

Berger said that during 2008, the lab deactivated 80 bar-coded pieces of computer equipment that were reported missing or stolen from the lab, Berger said. He said that 67 of the items were reported missing and 13 as stolen, he said. Eleven missing items, and one stolen piece of equipment have been recovered, Berger added.

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