Arrest made in Transportation laptop theft

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Miami-Dade Police Department, and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General arrested a suspect in connection with the July 27 theft of a DOT laptop containing personal information on 133,000 Florida drivers and pilots.

The arrest broke up a laptop-theft ring which had targeted a Miami-area restaurant and surrounding areas, stealing laptops and reselling them primarily to high school students after erasing and reinstalling the operating system on the laptops, according to a statement (PDF) released by the DOT inspector general’s office today.

Authorities set up a sting operation using a decoy laptop in the same restaurant parking lot from which the DOT laptop was stolen in July. The suspect, who was not named in the report, confessed to stealing other laptops but not the DOT laptop, and it remains unrecovered, according to the report.

The report said that because the laptops were erased and had the operating system reinstalled before being fenced, “based on our investigation to date, we believe that the risk of credit fraud in the future is very low.” However, the telephone information hotline remains open at 800-424-9071 for those who believe they may have been affected by the theft.

The report also noted that the investigation is continuing into the theft of a laptop stolen from a secure conference room in Orlando in April.

The suspect was indicted on a charge of theft of government property.

One thought on “Arrest made in Transportation laptop theft

  • November 22, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    This laptop was stolen one week before federal regulations demanding that such laptops with sensitive information be encrypted. DOT knew the mandate was coming down, yet this laptop was still in the field, not in the IT workshop being retrofitted to come into compliance with new regs.

    It is also irresponsible of the OIG office at the Department of Transportation to state that the data is safe because the laptops were “erased.” There are federal guidelines for dealing with sensitive data and reusing hard drives. They have to be wiped properly, several times, overwriting all data with binary ones then with zeros.

    Somehow I really don’t think that criminals who fence stolen goods would have followed federal guidelines for reissuing hard drives. Much of that data can still be recovered with the proper tools.

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