US Nuclear Weapons Lab Loses 67 Computers

Bob Hubbard

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US Nuclear Weapons Lab Loses 67 Computers on Thursday February 12, @04:26PM

Posted by timothy on Thursday February 12, @04:26PM
from the unlocated-is-doubleplus-good-doublespeak dept.

pnorth writes "Officials from New Mexico's Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory have confessed that 67 of its computers are missing, with no less than 13 of them having disappeared over the past year alone. A memo [PDF] leaked by the Project on Government Oversight watchdog brought the lost nuclear laptops to the public's attention, but the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration dismissed fears the computers contained highly-sensitive or classified information, noting it was more likely to cause 'cybersecurity issues.' Three of the 13 computers which went missing in the past year were stolen from a scientist's home on January 16 and the memo also mentioned a BlackBerry belonging to another staff member had been lost 'in a sensitive foreign country.' The labs faced similar issues back in 2003 when 22 laptops were designated as being 'unlocated.'"
http://slashdot.org/index2.pl?section=mainpage&duration=1&startdate=20090211&issue=20090212&index=1#

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exile

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Migod, I've owned personal computers for more than thirty years without ever losing a single one. I don't know anyone in my department who's ever lost a computer. How bloody screwed up are the procedures at a major weapons lab that allow laptops with sensitive information—and at a place like Los Alamos, any sensitive information is going to be ultra-sensitive—to go missing?? Who the hell's minding the store?
 

jkembry

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He...he...he..

I was working at DOE when the 2 hard drives went missing a few years back. That was a debacle...I can only imagine what this event is like.
 

Andrew Green

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When computers wonder off on their own and nuclear weapons are involved, it's only a matter of time. Skynet is preparing itself.
 

elder999

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This is largely no big deal, or, at least, no surprise. The computers involved cannot contain sensitive information-that's a whole other level of security. Additionally, in an organization the size of the Lab's, with literally thousands of personal computers (like, I'd guess 20,000, but, with a workforce of more than 17,000, I'm being way conservative) the loss of a little less than 63 laptops is not only small, but somewhat likely-given human nature, etc.

jkembry said:
I was working at DOE when the 2 hard drives went missing a few years back. That was a debacle...I can only imagine what this event is like.

I was one of the people directly involved in that-interrogated under a polygraph, no less. I got 3 weeks paid vacation for my trouble, when they found out I wasn't responsible, as did a lot of other people. This brings up a good point, though-there's a big difference between "missing" and "misplaced." The Lab covers 43 square miles. Millions of square feet of building space. Of that 63, it's highly likely that some are still on the property somewhere, or that they were sold as salvage but left inventoried through a clerical error.

It's also pretty likely that some of them never existed. :lol:

On the other hand-security consciousness basically sucks. Physical security hasn't always been that great, either, but the people paying attention part leaves a lot to be desired, sometimes.

Things were much better, of course, when the entire city was "closed," but that was another era entirely....:lol:
 

exile

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This is largely no big deal, or, at least, no surprise. The computers involved cannot contain sensitive information-that's a whole other level of security.

I'm not so sure... design specifications for new kinds of weaponry or control systems might well be verboten on such machines, but there was a specific warning that there may be cybersecurity issues that could be compromised by data on some of those machines. If so, it's still something to worry about. Network protection does tend to lag hacking practice, sometimes by a goodly amount.
 

elder999

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I'm not so sure... design specifications for new kinds of weaponry or control systems might well be verboten on such machines, but there was a specific warning that there may be cybersecurity issues that could be compromised by data on some of those machines. If so, it's still something to worry about. Network protection does tend to lag hacking practice, sometimes by a goodly amount.


That's another issue, I'll grant you, but I think it's also a pretty slim one-teh Lab keeps classified info on separate networks than the ones the computers in question could be used to hack into. Additionally, while the network probably isn't the least vulnerable in the world, it is fairly robust to attack. Not that it hasn't been hacked into, or infiltrated by a virus in the past, and those things are likely to happen again-as you said, network protection lags hacking expertise.

While I have no way of knowing, I'd be willing to wager a goodly amount that most of those machines were sold as salvage, but somehow left in inventory. If that's the case, they were wiped and reformatted before hand, and don't represent a cybersecurity risk. Odds are good someone is using them to play HALO...whichever it is now, 3? 4? :lol:
 

exile

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That's another issue, I'll grant you, but I think it's also a pretty slim one-teh Lab keeps classified info on separate networks than the ones the computers in question could be used to hack into. Additionally, while the network probably isn't the least vulnerable in the world, it is fairly robust to attack. Not that it hasn't been hacked into, or infiltrated by a virus in the past, and those things are likely to happen again-as you said, network protection lags hacking expertise.

While I have no way of knowing, I'd be willing to wager a goodly amount that most of those machines were sold as salvage, but somehow left in inventory. If that's the case, they were wiped and reformatted before hand, and don't represent a cybersecurity risk. Odds are good someone is using them to play HALO...whichever it is now, 3? 4? :lol:

Weird, eh? Someone's nephew could be learning keyboarding skills via a Spongebob Squarepants typing program on a device once used by scientists and engineers at the fearsome Mother of All Weapons Labs... I find that very whimsical, in a really macabre kind of way....
 

CoryKS

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On the bright side, it's probably not too late to get eleventy billion dollars added to the stimulus bill so that our nuclear scientists can buy more PCs to lose or play HALO on. Or just pocket the money and take a three-week vacation, whatever the hell they want to do.
 

Phoenix44

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This sort of data "loss" has been going on for years. It happened to the VA, the Dept of Defense, the NYC Dept of Health, the IRS, the Long Island Rail Road, Tops Markets, and various credit card companies.

You want my opinion? This is no accident. I complained to my Congresswoman and to the local newspapers, but nobody seems to care. Except you and me.
 
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