REBECCA BOONE Associated Press Writer BOISE, Idaho
A small computer drive containing Social Security numbers and other personal information about every Army National Guard soldier in Idaho has been stolen, a National Guard spokeswoman said Tuesday. The device containing information on roughly 3,400 soldiers was stolen Monday night out of a soldier's car while she was traveling in the Treasure Valley on official duty, Lt. Col. Stephanie Dowling said. Officials hope the person who stole the drive along with other computer equipment and personal items, doesn't know what he has. Guard members were being notified by phone and mail. "You name it, it was on there," Dowling said of the socalled thumb drive. "Any time our soldiers' personal data get compromised in any way, it's a big concern for us. We want to make sure that all of our soldiers are informed and protect themselves." On Tuesday evening the guard activated a phone tree normally used for natural disasters or state emergencies to contact all the soldiers. Sgt. 1st Class Travis Dryden of Boise was frustrated by the news. He planned to notify credit reporting agencies and take other steps to prevent any damage to his finances. "It's a matter of how we fail to safeguard our technology assets," Dryden said. "Just a little shocking that that kind of stuff would not be kept under closer, or more immediate, control." The National Guard does not have a policy prohibiting soldiers from taking computer storage devices away from offices, Dowling said. "People need to do that as part of their job," she said. "Army-wide we're in the process of encrypting all of our devices. But this wasn't encrypted." The National Guard should have done better, given recent attention to data thefts from veterans, Dryden said. Last year, Veterans Affairs lost data on 26.5 million veterans when computer equipment was stolen in Maryland. In January, a VA hospital in Birmingham, Ala., lost sensitive data on more than 1.5 million people when a hard drive vanished. Idaho Army National Guard soldiers are required to give their bank account information to the guard so that all paychecks can be directly deposited into soldiers' accounts, Dryden said. "It's another way that as a soldier, you become exposed to danger," Dryden said. Soldiers can go to http:// www.idahoarmyguard.org or call the Idaho National Guard Joint Operations Center to get more information about the theft and steps to safeguard information, Dowling said. "I am deeply saddened by any concern or anxiety this incident may cause our soldiers and their families," Maj. Gen. Larry Lafrenz, the commanding general of the Idaho National Guard, said in a statement. "We appreciate the service our soldiers have given their state and country and we are working diligently to protect them from any harm as a result of this incident."