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VA laptop breach victims to get free ID monitoring

ID risk management company offers to keep an eye on veterans' personal data exposed in a recent laptop theft.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Wednesday that it has accepted an offer from an analytics company to monitor veterans' personal data for free.

Until a routine security audit is approved, the agency will hand over the data, which was breached as a result of a laptop theft, to ID Analytics. The California-based company, which specializes in identity risk management, will look for patterns of misuse.

said it is offering its service to veterans for free in an effort to get out the word on its new technology.

Using its own Graph Theoretic Anomaly Detection technology, ID Analytics promises to trace and map the life of any identity it is given, as well as of identities or institutions associated with that individual. It then analyzes the map for anomalous activity in behavior patterns.

"You can't detect fraud by looking at one person. You look at the person and their relationships, and how those have moved across the time, and what kind of pattern that might create," said Mike Cook, a vice president at ID Analytics.

The company does this by analyzing the data inside something it calls the "ID Network." This is a gigantic database that contains information from participating credit card companies, financial institutions, telecom companies, retail lenders, government agencies and, soon, health care agencies. ID Analytics started the ID Network about four years ago. It now contains more than 3 billion "identity elements" that cover where and how personal details have been used over time, Cook said.

The company has strict policies on security and secrecy. Unlike many credit monitoring and reporting agencies, it does not sell or share any of the personal information it collects. It also keeps all of its data encrypted, Cook said.

"What impresses us most about them is that data goes in and data does not come back out," said Jay Foley, executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

The VA laptop at the center of the controversy was stolen in May and recovered in June. Its suspected thieves were arrested on Saturday. The suspects claimed ignorance of the stolen laptop's sensitive contents.