July 17, 2006

Aviators’ personal info posted on Web site
More than 100,000 Marines, sailors could be affected

By Andrew Scutro
Times staff writer

Personal information for more than 100,000 Navy and Marine Corps aviators and aircrew members was left vulnerable to theft through a recent posting on a Navy Web site, although it’s unclear if any data was stolen.

Officials discovered the information, including names and Social Security numbers, on the Naval Safety Center’s Web site and removed the data July 6.

Birthdates were not included in the posted data, according to Lt. j.g. Karl Lettow, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, who added that an investigation is underway.

The information should not have been part of a Navy/Marine Corps mishap reporting system.

“The names with Social Security numbers were inadvertently included in the application,” said Evelyn Odango, public affairs officer at the safety center.

This incident follows the recent discovery that a civilian Web site contained the critical personal information of more than 30,000 sailors and their family members who had been affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The 100,000 aviation personnel affected in this most recent discovery are serving with active-duty and reserve units. Aviation personnel who’ve served in the last 20 years also could be affected.

“There’s no evidence that any of the information has been used illegally thus far,” Lettow said. “But individuals are encouraged to carefully monitor their bank accounts, credit card accounts and other financial transactions.”

According to information released by the safety center, service members should put a three-month fraud alert on their credit reports. Those reports are maintained by Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

Not in plain sight

The personal information on the sailors and Marines had been available for download but was reportedly hard to find.

“It was in a technically obscure location,” Lettow said. “It’s highly unlikely that a typical Web visitor could have been aware of it.”

The safety center is in the process of sending each affected person a letter laying out a course of action.

Navy Personnel Command is also setting up a 24-hour call center to help those affected. The number, (866) 827-5672, was to go into effect July 9.

The safety center posting was the second potential compromise of Navy-specific personnel information in as many weeks.

But the recent Navy lapses in security are dwarfed by another recent potential compromise.

The theft of a laptop computer with Department of Veterans Affairs data on 26.5 million veterans and military personnel posed a potentially massive loss of personal information.

Federal agents recovered the laptop June 28, nearly two months after it was stolen. Officials believe the personal information was not accessed.

Andrew Scutro covers the Navy.