[ISN] Police: Thief was unaware of laptop's secret data

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Fri Jun 25 2004 - 06:05:46 PDT

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    By Roni Singer and Tsahar Rotem
    June 25, 2004
    The thief who stole a laptop containing sensitive information on
    undercover police agents was apparently unaware of its contents, so
    the information probably remains uncompromised, police sources said
    Nevertheless, Major General Ilan Franco, the head of the police
    intelligence division, yesterday ordered all operations involving
    undercover agents frozen until Sunday, to enable further examination
    of the data in the laptop and its possible ramifications.
    The laptop was stolen overnight Tuesday from the Herzliya residence of
    a police psychologist working for the intelligence department. The
    thieves also took the officer's car, which bore police license plates,
    and various other items. The laptop was recovered in the West Bank
    city of Tul Karm less than 24 hours later.
    Contrary to previous reports, the Shin Bet security service was not
    involved in the recovery. The Sharon District Police intelligence unit
    maintains its own network of contacts in the West Bank, primarily in
    Tul Karm and Qalqilyah, as stolen goods from that part of Israel often
    end up in that part of the territories. This network was activated to
    discover the laptop's whereabouts.
    The intelligence unit's sources soon located the laptop in Tul Karm,
    and at that point, the effort to recover it began. The police's
    informants in the territories employed intermediaries to offer to buy
    the computer from the thief, so that neither the thief nor the
    intermediaries would know the police force was the real customer.  
    Police said no negotiations were held over the price; the buyer was
    simply instructed to pay the asking price, which was NIS 5,000.
    Sources in the intelligence unit insisted yesterday that no sensitive
    information was stored on the laptop: it contained psychological
    evaluations of current and potential agents, but these included
    neither the agents' names nor any other identifying details, and also
    gave no details of their methods of operation. Other senior police
    officers, however, said this was not uniformly true; some of the
    evaluations did contain names or other identifying details.
    Nevertheless, the police got lucky: The thief apparently wiped the
    computer's memory almost immediately so he would be able to sell it as
    new. This means the information was very probably not compromised, and
    also indicates that the laptop was not stolen for its information, but
    was merely taken in the course of an ordinary theft.
    This theory is also bolstered by the modest price for which the thief
    sold it back. "If he had known [how important it was], the price would
    have been much higher," said one police source.
    Police intelligence sources added that they have received no
    information indicating that any of the agents is in danger.
    Nevertheless, they said, there is as yet no guarantee that the thief
    did not copy the information before erasing it.
    Police were apparently able to reconstruct the wiped memory files, so
    the missing data will not impair future police operations.
    Police are now seeking to arrest the thief and his accomplices. They
    have not yet decided whether to file disciplinary charges against the
    psychologist for keeping sensitive information at home instead of
    securing it properly.
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