Why Fix It? Destroying Commerce Department Computers

Diagnosing computer problems

Thinking that their business computer repairs were impossible, the U.S. Department of Commerce destroyed over 170,000 dollars worth of computer equipment. Facing mostly nonexistent computer software problems, they were on track to destroy another 3 million dollars worth of IT equipment had funding not run out to complete their eradication efforts.

After reports diagnosing computer problems, such as malware infections, were issued, the Economic Development Administration (part of the Department of Commerce) overestimated the severity of their computer infections. Facing high costs in business computer repairs, they were opting to destroy equipment rather than fixing computer problems with their equipment.

An investigation has revealed that the agency spent half of their annual IT budget on a catastrophe that can be traced to less than competent business computer repair specialists in the 170 person agency. Their troubles started when an emergency IT memo went out to the Commerce department, warning about an infection inside the building computer network.

There was a follow up note clarifying that only 2 computers were affected, but that was misunderstood. At the time, the EDA, including the Chief Information Officer, thought the best computer repair solution was to completely destroy all of the technology equipment, including TVs, cameras, computer mice and keyboards.

During the fallout involving multiple teams and outside security contractors the agency borrowed equipment and Blackberry service from the U.S. Census Department. The total cost to wipeout the problems turned into 2.7 million dollars over a 15 month span. They would later be denied a 26 million dollar budget request to continue their destruction efforts and to replace that equipment.

In the report released by the Commerce Department, it turns out that a third party security specialist had found completely fixable malware problems in the system that would negate any need for equipment destruction. By that time, the agency was too far along their plan to turn back, even though they were working from incorrect assumptions at the beginning.

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