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FBI offers $25,000 reward for missing VA hard drive

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — The FBI offered a $25,000 reward Tuesday for the return of a computer hard drive that was reported missing from a Veterans Affairs office last month with information on as many as 1.8 million patients and physicians nationwide.

The desktop device — manufactured by Iomega and about the size of a large paperback book — contained unprotected information including Social Security numbers, names and billing codes. The VA has acknowledged that the data was not encrypted, which is a violation of department rules.

An FBI statement said the reward was offered for information about the external hard drive and its return.

The hard drive was being used as a backup for a computer that contained information on a nationwide research project.

VA Secretary Jim Nicholson last week suspended research at seven centers to make sure they comply with computer security standards.

An employee at the VA medical center in Birmingham reported the hard drive missing on Jan. 22 and has since been placed on leave. No charges have been filed.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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