Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Two Levels of Security Failures in the Election Commission Laptop Caper

We are slowly getting more and more information about the details of the break-in at the Metro Election Commission Office on either December 22 or 23. Last night Fox 17 news reported that Howard School Building (in which the office is located) has neither security guards on the weekends and holidays nor an alarm system. According to WKRN, Metro's General Services Department oversees security at all city buildings, and that officials in that office said "there is some security over weekends and holidays."

So, the first failure in this sorry episode is that of General Services, which either does not provide security or does not provide sufficient security over the weekends and holidays. Also, I am stunned that a building with sensitive information and expensive equipment has no alarm system in such a transitional part of Downtown. I believe that the building underwent renovations during the Purcell Administration. Why did the last Mayor's Office fail to include an alarm system in the renovation designs?

The second failure is that of the Metro Election Commission Officials or IT personnel who failed to return the two laptops containing voter data to their secure location behind a locked gate. This is a serious violation of security protocol and it needs to be addressed at a disciplinary level. We're not just talking about a small technology theft. A crime like this could have horrible ramifications for hundreds of thousands of people for years to come. From the outside it looks like someone should be fired for opening so many up to the danger of identity theft.

Some call for ending the use of social security numbers with voter records, a point with which I agree. But seriously, Mayor Karl Dean and the Metro Election Commissioners need to close these security holes in General Services and the Commission Office first and worry about the question of social security numbers later. The Metro Council should pass a memorializing resolution at their next meeting asking the Mayor's Office to install an alarm system at Howard as soon as possible, but hopefully before the next election.

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