COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned that personal information for thousands of Georgia Army National Guard soldiers has been lost.
A retired soldier who lives locally called Channel 2 Action News on Friday, the same day he got a letter in the mail from the Guard giving him a head's up about the data breach.
The Georgia Army National Guard confirmed the data breach happened in late March when a hard drive with files containing sensitive information for thousands of soldiers was lost in the mail on its way to Afghanistan from the Clay National Guard Center in Cobb County.
A source gave Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant a copy of the letter the Guard sent to soldiers, saying: "The specific information compromised includes soldiers' name, Social Security Number, job title, duty status, and unit information."
“The reality is, you now have information that’s out in the wild, and so, it can’t be protected as well as you think it would be,” said Georgia State University cybersecurity researcher Don Hunt.
Guard leaders said the hard drive was encrypted.
“You have to think about who’s going to end up with that, so we don’t know where it is. It could be in a garbage bins somewhere, it could also be in the hands of somebody who knows what they’re doing, and if they know what they’re doing, they’re going to break that hard drive and the encryption,” Hunt said.
The source who sent us the letter got it on Friday, but it’s dated June 20, six weeks ago and more than four months after the hard drive disappeared.
A Guard spokesperson told Diamant that two months into the post office’s investigation, the Guard opened its own.
They said it took a while to get the letters out to all the current, reserve and retired soldiers potentially impacted.
The spokesperson emailed Diamant a statement, saying:
“Although the Georgia Army National Guard determined there was a very low probability of information compromise, we sent written communication to current and former Soldiers to inform them. We diligently safeguard our Soldiers information and therefore, out of an abundance of caution, we initiated the communication.”
The Army routinely uses the post office to ship things to bases overseas.
The Georgia National Guard is urging its soldiers to monitor their credit and put a fraud alert on it.
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