Suspect In Laptop Thefts Surrenders - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Suspect In Laptop Thefts Surrenders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - According to Metro police, the Tennessee parolee and suspected burglar in the Christmas Eve break-in at the Davidson County Election Commission surrendered early Thursday at police headquarters.

After being taken into custody, police interviewed Robert Osbourne and then booked him on an arrest warrant charging him with breaking into Metro's Election Commission offices.

Osbourne allegedly stole computers containing voters' information, which included social security numbers.

Police first issued the arrest warrant Tuesday. As police looked for the 45-year-old, city leaders worked to prevent an incident like this one from happening again.

"It's criminal not to protect information today," said Bradley Lide, CEO of CyberAngel, a company that offers security features for corporate, government and university clients.

Since Dec. 1, 2007, more than 700,000 identities have been potentially compromised. A missing flash drive at Tennessee Tech University compromised information for about 1,000 people, while the election commission break-in affected more than 337,000 registered voters.

Lide hopes his company will get the contract to protect Metro from another snafu. 

"They've had a huge breach in security that's costing taxpayers an awful lot of money as a result," Lide said.

Metro did not have their laptops encrypted. Passwords were typed onto the computers themselves and now they're facing thousands of dollars in bills related to protecting and informing every voter.

"We find all across the country that IT managers are overworked, understaffed and under budgeted and they're not allowed to do anything but put out fires," Lide said. "Just what Metro Nashville has to do now."

Lide said there's no reason not to protect priceless information. Using simple software can prevent identity theft.

"That information is encrypted and hidden from view so that thief never sees the information out there to begin with," he said.

The cost for Metro is $15,000, which is a fraction of what it cost the city to send out the initial bulk mailing informing voters about the breach. The correspondence cost the city $150,000.

"It's insurance," Lide said about the protective software.

Insurance that may not have prevented a theft, but it could prevent expensive taxpayer-funded damage control. 

"We can't prevent theft if someone's going to break into a building, but we can prevent them from compromising the information and provide a recovery tool," Lide said.

Police said they were still not sure if the data had been compromised, but they will continue their efforts to recover the two laptop computers.

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