LANL Blackberry lost in a "sensitive foreign country"

Published 2 February 2009

Security problems at the Los Alamos National Laboratory continue; internal e-mail reveal that there was a break-in at the Santa Fe home of a LANL scientist, from which three LANL computers were stolen; also, a LANL Blackberry was lost in a “sensitive foreign country”

This has not been a good week for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Project on Government Oversight (POGOreports that according to a Los Alamos internal e-mail, there was a break-in at the Santa Fe home of a LANL scientist, from which three LANL computers were stolen. In an unrelated incident, a LANL Blackberry was lost in a “sensitive foreign country.” The internal e-mail from the Threat Reduction (TR) unit notes that “this is garnering a great deal of attention with senior management as well as NNSA representatives.” The e-mail also points out that LANL officials expect to be questioned about systems on a “one-by-one basis, to ensure that these vulnerabilities were in fact addressed.”

With regards to the break-in, a LANL spokesman assured the Los Alamos Monitor that the scientist “followed all lab policies” and it is “fairly common for folks to have home systems.”  This statement seems to be contradicted by the internal e-mail which points out that these instances reveal ongoing vulnerabilities in a system to track off-site computers. It is unclear whether those computers contained any classified material.

POGO says it is disturbed that missing computers and information devices (flash drives, Blackberrys) have once again become an issue at Los Alamos. “Here we go again,” says Peter Stockton, POGO Senior Investigator. “It appears that LANL still has not created a system strong enough to prevent the potential release of classified material.”

Cyber Security and Safeguards and Security are two of the Department of Energy (DOE) management challenges that the DOE Inspector General (IG) identified in its December 2008 Special Report. POGO says it expects both DOE and the IG to take a hard look at these most recent incidents at LANL and to recommend corrective actions to ensure LANL’s system is infallible.