[ISN] More classified devices go missing at Los Alamos

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Tue Jul 13 2004 - 01:55:56 PDT


By Sue Vorenberg 
Tribune Reporter
July 10, 2004

Los Alamos National Laboratory continues to be plagued with missing
computer devices.

On Wednesday, the lab discovered two missing devices - called CREMs -
from its Weapons Physics Directorate. This on the heels of a May
announcement that another device was missing and several announcements
in 2003 that a total of 10 devices had vanished.

"Security is of the utmost importance at the laboratory," said Lab
Director Pete Nanos. "In order to operate effectively, this apparent
lack of attention to CREM issues must be dealt with swiftly and
decisively. At my direction there will be a full inquiry into how and
why this has occurred."

That might include the firing of those found accountable during the
investigation, he said.

CREM is an acronym for Classified Removable Electronic Media, which is
used to transfer data on computer systems. They can be a variety of
things including CDs, floppy disks and flash memory cards. For
security reasons, Los Alamos could not release what type of media they
were, or what was on them, spokesman Kevin Roarke said.

"It's a very serious issue," Roarke said. "The past two CREM incidents
before this in the last eight months or so were part of larger groups
of items slated for destruction. This is different. These items were
in use at the lab and not slated for destruction."

Roarke said it is too soon to tell whether the devices were stolen.

Why they were taken, or what happened to them, will come out in the
investigation, Roarke added.

Pete Stockton, a senior investigator at the Project on Government
Oversight, says his group recommended the Department of Energy stop
using the devices in 2001, because of the potential for data theft.

"We recommended that to the National Nuclear Security Administration
and they squashed the idea," Stockton said. "Now it's coming up again
- only several years behind, but what the hell."

The University of California, which operates the lab, and Nanos are
working toward eliminating the use of the devices.

"We're estimating it will cost somewhere between $26 million and $30
million over a three- to four-year time period," Roarke said. "But
Director Nanos has said he wants to be very aggressive about this."

The ongoing problems could be problematic for the University of
California, which is competing for the contract to operate Los Alamos.  
The contract goes up for bid in late 2005. The Department of Energy
decided to open that contract for bid - even though the university has
operated Los Alamos for 60 years - in the wake of a series of security
scandals dating back to 1999.

"When folks look at the competition the emphasis will be on the
science and technology at the lab, which we're proud of, and not just
security," said Chris Harrington, a university spokesman. "But
security is important, and that's why we're trying to implement
several new policies and procedures to fix these problems."

Eliminating the devices is part of the policy changes, as is adding
more training classes for employees on the proper use of computer
media, Harrington added.

The National Nuclear Security Agency has sent a team to Los Alamos to
investigate the incident. About 20 people had access to the device,
but that doesn't mean all or even most of them are guilty, Roarke

"Everybody deserves a chance at due process," he said.

Those that are responsible can expect harsh consequences, Nanos said.

"Our ability to safeguard classified materials rests first and
foremost with the individual staff members who handle, maintain and
use these items," Nanos said.

"In all cases, they have been given a special confidence and trust
that requires meticulous attention to detail, strict adherence to all
relevant standards and procedures and, most importantly, an attitude
of zero tolerance."

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