Cybersecurity

The FBI lost track of hundreds of PCs in just six months last year

But the agency says we shouldn't be worried.
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Francis Scialabba

· less than 3 min read

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A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the FBI turned up records showing that from July 2021 to December 2021, over 200 of its desktop computers went missing, along with other equipment like cell phones, body armor, digital recorders, and pocket night-vision scopes, Vice reported. Dozens of FBI-owned portable computers and tablets apparently also vanished.

The Department of Homeland Security also got FOIA’d from Vice and sent documents showing that just 25 desktops were lost, damaged, or stolen between October 2021 and March 2022. But the DHS did lose track of 115 laptops in that time, so there’s that.

Computers disappearing seemingly into the ether at the nation’s premier domestic counter-intelligence and crime-fighting agencies isn’t new, and raises the obvious (if inherently speculative) question of if sensitive data, like internal files or saved credentials, went missing with them. It might lend some cold comfort that virtually all of the items are listed by the FBI as “lost” rather than “stolen”...if, as Vice noted, it hadn’t filled out the field for the “root cause” of every single piece of missing equipment as “unknown.”

Just relax, OK. The FBI more or less told Vice to chill out, it’s all probably in the basement or something:

“The vast majority of those items reported as lost were either marked for disposal or in FBI storage space, but could not be counted during the specified 2021 inventory cycle,” the agency told Vice in a statement. “For accounting purposes, when the FBI cannot specifically count an item being housed in storage, the item is tagged as ‘lost’—though the item remains appropriately secured or appropriately disposed.”—TM

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Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming. Our IT Brew newsletter delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.