Recs

2

Win the War Against Identity Theft

After a massive data breach that left some 26 million veterans vulnerable to identity theft, the Department of Veterans Affairs last week hired former attorney Rick Romley as the agency's new Special Advisor for Information Security. Oh, goody.

You'll have to forgive the sound of my one hand clapping, but the VA has been getting failing grades at security for years. With apologies to Mr. Romley, the department doesn't need a figurehead; it needs a litany of sweeping changes that will keep sensitive data safe.

And for those who think "figurehead" is a wildly unfair term, Romley's contract covers just three months. When was the last time the Feds got anything done in fewer than 100 days? Harkening back to the Roosevelt administration doesn't count.

Enough with the rant
But, hey, let's try to be optimistic. Romley is, after all, a decorated former Marine, which means he's taking up an assignment to protect former brothers in arms. And, as a former local government attorney in Arizona, he's had his share of battles with bureaucracy.

To help him along, here are a few Foolish tips for making the next 100 days more productive.

A lesson from the guy down the street
Few know security better than the defense contractors. There's a reason for this, of course. For Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) , Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) , Raytheon (NYSE: RTN  ) , and General Dynamics (NYSE: GD  ) , poor security leads directly to poor earnings. That's why iPods and camera phones are banned from their buildings. And it's why you'll never see Lockheed workers assigned to a classified project carting home a laptop whenever it suits them.

Why not actually enforce a similar policy at the VA? After all, the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters are spitting distance from Lockheed's Bethesda, Md., home. Surely someone there would be more than happy to help with the VA's reinvention effort.

Password plus
Simpler still would be to make sure password-protection guidelines are strictly enforced. And not just for systems, but also for files. Recent reports from the VA Inspector General indicate that many VA employees do not even have the automatic session timeout feature activated on their computers. That's lazy, and it leaves veterans vulnerable to identity theft.

In my own life, I make myself jump through hoops to get at my information. If someone were to steal my PowerBook tomorrow, it would still take more than a little time to hack into my financial life. I don't store passwords for the financial sites I use on my Mac. I re-enter the data for my bank, credit card, and brokerage sites every time. And good luck breaking into my Quicken files; the program is password-protected with a unique combination that I don't use for any other software or service.

The Foolish bottom line
One hundred days isn't a lot of time. But there's good news. Well, sort of. The situation at the VA appears to be so dire that simple changes such as better password protection could have a meaningful, immediate impact. This isn't the advice of high-priced consultants. We're just a bunch of Fools who have secured their financial lives by paying attention to the basics. Isn't it time the VA took a lesson from us?

Identity theft could cost you an average of $1,400 and hundreds of frustrating hours. In our just-released report, "How to Protect Your Identity from Being Stolen and Your Credit from Being Wrecked," we highlight the latest ways you can protect yourself and detail exactly what you should do to get your identity back if it is stolen. It's yours for free. Just click here.

Fool contributorTim Beyershopes none of the 26 million vets affected by the latest breach suffers at the hands of an identity thief. Stay vigilant, folks. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 504379, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 11/28/2014 7:32:27 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Tim Beyers
TMFMileHigh

Tim Beyers first began writing for the Fool in 2003. Today, he's an analyst for Motley Fool Rule Breakers and Motley Fool Supernova. At Fool.com, he covers disruptive ideas in technology and entertainment, though you'll most often find him writing and talking about the business of comics. Find him online at timbeyers.me or send email to tbeyers@fool.com. For more insights, follow Tim on Google+ and Twitter.

Today's Market

updated 16 minutes ago Sponsored by:
DOW 17,828.24 0.49 0.00%
S&P 500 2,067.56 -5.27 -0.25%
NASD 4,791.63 4.31 0.09%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

11/28/2014 1:06 PM
BA $134.36 Down -0.42 -0.31%
The Boeing Company CAPS Rating: ****
GD $145.36 Up +0.83 +0.57%
General Dynamics CAPS Rating: ***
LMT $191.56 Up +2.41 +1.27%
Lockheed Martin Co… CAPS Rating: ****
RTN $106.70 Up +0.03 +0.03%
Raytheon Company CAPS Rating: ****

Advertisement