Auditor: Private files still on old computers

Thursday, September 16, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:30 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Sensitive materials may be accessible to the public on computers donated by the state government, according to a report released Wednesday by the state auditor’s office.

According to the report, information erased from 37 of 56 computers could be accessed using software easily available. Auditors were able to retrieve sensitive data such as Social Security numbers, bank account information and medical data from 23 of the 37 computers.

Surplus computers from state offices are given to the Missouri State Agency for Surplus Property, which redistributes them to not-for-profit organizations, local school districts and other organizations within the division. The agency also releases some of the computers for public auctions. Of the 12 departments that had computers tested, only two were found to have effective procedures for erasing data.

Doug Young, information technology chief of the Conservation Department, said the lapse may be a result of the state being technologically behind the times.

His department had five computers tested; four were found to have sensitive data.

“We’re still perhaps living in a world dated about three years ago and weren’t quite up to speed on how things had changed,” Young said.

He said his department would comply with the State Auditor’s recommendation.

Neither State Auditor Claire McCaskill nor a representative from the surplus property agency could be reached for comment.

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