There may have been dozens of security violations involving the use of unauthorized laptop computers being brought into secure areas of the Y-12 plant at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, according to a report released by the Department of Energy's inspector general.
The investigation began after a contractor brought an unclassified laptop with wireless capability into a limited area of the plant in October 2006. The computer was not properly secured, and the user left the area with the computer, which was not retrieved until an hour later.
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"Because the laptop could have been tampered with during that time, it could not be collected as best evidence," according to the report.
Although the department requires a written report within 32 hours of a security breach, it took staffers at the plant six days to submit the report.
In addition, inspectors discovered that as many as 37 additional laptops may have been brought into the plant's limited area without following proper security protocols.
Nine of those laptops were later taken out of the country, including two of which were taken to countries on DOE's sensitive countries list.
According to the report, the contractors involved in the incident were immediately removed from the facility and their unclassified e-mail accounts were suspended.
The laboratory has suffered at least two other security breaches in the last year.
In December, ORNL was one of several plants targeted by a coordinated phishing attack which may have exposed the Social Security numbers of all visitors to the lab over a 14-year span. FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials told ABC News at the time that they believe the attacks originated in China with Chinese entities probing U.S. systems.
The attacks were manipulated to look like legitimate e-mails, including one that purportedly advertised a scientific conference.
Last July, janitor Roy Lynn Oakley pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he tried to sell pieces of uranium enrichment equipment to the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., which he had gathered while working at the East Tennessee Technology Park, which is part of the Oak Ridge reservation.
At the time, the facility's office manager said it reviewed its security procedures in light of the breach.
The National Nuclear Safety Administration's spokesman did not return calls for comment.