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’Where was the encryption?’ asks Origin Storage as a terabyte of US National Archives data goes missing

May 2009 by Marc Jacob

Reports that the US National Archives has lost a hard drive containing an astonishing one terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) of data containing government procedures and employees from the President Clinton era, has staggered Origin Storage, the secure data storage specialist.

"The fact that the US National Archives’ drive contained employee Social Security numbers, addresses, and Secret Service plus White House operating procedures is really bad news on the national security front for the US government," said Andy Cordial, Origin Storage’s managing director.

"What I find astonishing about the incident is that the drive did not have any form of encryption, despite the fact it contained highly sensitive data from the former President’s Administration," he added.

According to Cordial, although the National Archives has a security system and strict security procedures in place, it seems these procedures were not followed as building works were taking place at the Archives II facility in Maryland, which was opened in 1994.

This, he says, is exactly the time when security procedures - with a safety net of encrypting all data on relevant storage systems - should have prevented this clear security policy snafu.

The cost of encryption technology on hard drives has fallen significantly in recent times, he explained, so there really is no excuse for the IT managers at the US National Archives for not implementing this technology on a pan-archive basis.

The costs of large-scale data storage has fallen significantly in the last twelve months, he says, to the point where end users can stroll in a local computer store and buy a terabyte of external storage for their PC.

Even with value-added features such as network and on-the-fly integral encryption features, he adds, the cost will not sneak much past the 200 pounds mark.

It’s against this backdrop that the failure to encrypt the data at the US National Archives becomes such a ridiculous failure of security strategy for the US government, Cordial went on to say.

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