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The FBI Retains Shedding Desktop Computer systems


Picture: Frederic J. Brown/Contributor

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Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard’s podcast and reporting on the darkish underbelly of the web.

The FBI misplaced over 200 desktop computer systems, a number of items of physique armor, and night-vision scopes over a six-month interval final yr, in accordance with company information obtained by Motherboard.

The misplaced computer systems probably current a cybersecurity threat if the machines and their contents weren’t correctly secured. Though they characterize solely a small snapshot in time, the “misplaced/stolen property” information additionally present a glimpse into the kind of waste that occurs inside federal legislation enforcement businesses. Motherboard obtained the spreadsheets by Freedom of Info Act (FOIA) requests, and we obtained related information for the DHS.

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The FBI information stretch from July-December 2021. The columns embody an merchandise description, the situation the merchandise got here from—equivalent to Washington, D.C., or Quantico, Virginia—and the suspected standing of the merchandise, equivalent to whether or not it was misplaced, stolen, lacking, or broken or destroyed.

The over 200 determine was sourced from counting objects marked within the FBI doc as “COMPUTER, DESKTOP.” The 18-page spreadsheet additionally consists of “COMPUTER, PORTABLE,” presumably referring to laptops, and “COMPUTER, PORTABLE, TABLET.” There are additionally a number of listings for misplaced or stolen telephones.


The DHS doc covers incidents from 1st October 2021 till thirtieth March 2022. The variety of misplaced, stolen, or broken computer systems appears a lot decrease, with 25 “COMPUTER, DESKTOP” occasions recorded. 115 “LAPTOP COMPUTERS” have been recorded by the DHS, however the doc doesn’t break down whether or not these have been misplaced, stolen, or broken.

The FBI’s spreadsheet features a column for offering the “root trigger” of the misplaced, stolen, broken, or destroyed merchandise. These are “insufficient safety,” “inattention to particulars,” “gross negligence,” “willful intent,” “different,” and “unknown.” Each single merchandise within the record—together with the misplaced desktop computer systems, but additionally stolen physique armor and different objects—is marked as being misplaced for an “unknown” motive, elevating questions in regards to the effectiveness of the FBI’s record-keeping practices. The columns that mark the standing of motion taken, which might embody an investigation, and the correction measures taken to stop repetition, are additionally all marked as “unknown.”

Theoretically, a legislation enforcement laptop going lacking can current a cybersecurity threat in that it could include delicate info equivalent to paperwork or recordsdata, or it could embody passwords or different authentication mechanisms for accessing legislation enforcement programs, relying on what precisely the pc was used for.

The DHS didn’t reply to a request for remark. The FBI responded however didn’t present a response in time for publication.

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