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Commerce Department mistakenly destroyed 144 'infected' laptops, printers, other IT equipment

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Commerce,Federal Budget,Corruption,Kelly Cohen,Waste and Fraud

More than $170,000 of destroyed computers and IT equipment later, the U.S. Commerce Department realized it made a mistake.

According to a June 2013 Inspector General report, Commerce's Economic Development Administration thought it had been hacked and infected with a potentially debilitating virus between December 2011 and January 2012.

The EDA then spent more than $2.7 million total — more than half of its entire annual IT budget — responding to what the IG called a "misunderstanding." The response included bringing in outside help from the Department of Energy, the National Security Agency and a "cybersecurity contractor."

Management miscues by EDA officials continued to snowball after the initial snags in the investigation described by the IG as "misleading" and "vague."

Commerce's Computer Incident Response Team thought 146 pieces of EDA IT equipment were infected, but the IG could only verify two. Unfortunately, more than 140 computer desktops, printers, TVs, cameras, computer mice, and keyboards were mistakenly destroyed by officials, according to the IG.

Only "common malware," or basic preventable viruses most people get on their computers, were found, making the destruction of the equipment "clearly unnecessary."

The IG report said the "inaccurate analysis and misunderstanding" was caused by "serious long-standing deficiencies in EDA's IT security program."

The Commerce Department agreed with the IG's findings, saying it has already hired new and better "incident handlers."

Go here for the full report.

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Kelly Cohen

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner