| March 24, 2008

WASHINGTON — A U.S. government laptop computer containing sensitive medical information on 2,500 patients enrolled in a National Institutes of Health study was stolen in February, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

This data security accident potentially exposed seven years’ worth of clinical trial data, including names, medical diagnoses and details of the patients’ heart scans. The information was not encrypted, in violation of the government’s data-security policy, according to the paper.

The laptop was stolen from the locked car trunk of a researcher who is employed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one of the many institutes of NIH.

However, it was reported that NHLBI officials did not send letters notifying the affected patients until last Thursday — almost a month later.

This accident is the latest in a number of failures by the U.S. government employees to properly secure personal information. This month, the Government Accountability Office found that at least 19of 24 agencies reviewed had experienced at least one breach that could expose people’s personal information to identity theft.


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