Capitol attack: Should we be concerned about stolen computers?


ST. LOUIS– During the storming of the Capitol earlier this month, two laptops were reportedly stolen from members of Congress. There were concerns that some of the thefts might have potentially jeopardized what acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin called “national security equities”.

One computer was taken from Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office. There is not a lot known about that device.

The other was from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Scott Schaffer, Chief Information Security Officer at Blade Technologies, Inc., says it is probably not a major concern.

Pelosi’s chief of staff says the laptop was only used for presentations and was taken from a conference room. Schaffer says that indicates it was most likely a part of dedicated conference room hardware and used for presentations.

Also, he says most people were working from home so it is unlikely that there was critical business being conducted on the desktops and laptops in these offices.

However, items such as credentials might be harvested from the device. Schaffer explains classified data is located in the access-controlled SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) and not on member’s devices.

Also, since the situation was chaotic and many staffers took off and left their computers unlocked and logged in.

Schaffer says it’s what was possibly left behind that may pose a bigger threat.

“I know if I was a bad guy and I was going to do this sort of thing, I wouldn’t even take one computer. I would have a trusty little flashdrive with me and I would have malware on that would call back to me and I would put it on every machine I see,” said Schaffer.

He says he is sure the Capitol IT department is checking for malware. Also, he said the laptops are likely encrypted so it would be more difficult to get data. The IT department also likely made people change passwords so nothing too top secret was probably released.

As for the criminal investigation into the theft, Riley June Williams, of Pennsylvania, has been arrested for allegedly stealing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop. Court documents say Williams’ former romantic partner tipped off the FBI to her involvement.

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