Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences investigates after crime lab data discovered on auction computer


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HOUSTON – The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences is investigating allegations by a computer repair technician that a computer sold at a surplus auction still contained data from the agency that provides forensic pathology services and county criminal lab.

Repairman Johnny, who requested that we not use his last name, said he recently received the 2009 Hewlett Packard computer from a customer who asked him to refurbish it.

“She bought it at a Harris County public auction,” Johnny said.

Johnny said he was surprised to find the hard drive was still inside the computer and was alarmed when he discovered it appeared to contain data from the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

“There were records, files, Excel spreadsheets with DNA records and notes on the sampling results with case numbers attached,” he said, describing what he saw on the computer which he said was last used in 2015.

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Johnny handed over the hard drive to IFS on Monday afternoon. He said that even though the information was not of a sensitive nature, he preferred government agencies to be safe instead of apologizing.

“The general concern is data security. As a general rule, no data should be released to the public when you sell a computer because it is not their data, ”he said.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences has launched an investigation and is examining the hard drive.

A spokesperson for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences made the following statement to KPRC 2:

Our current standard process for surplus computers is to completely remove the hard drive from the computer for destruction, to ensure that no information is accidentally leaked outside the office. Also, it would be unusual for the information you described to be on the hard drive of a desktop computer. It must reside only on the network. Since this computer is several years old, we do not know why this process would not have been followed in this case.

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Based on the residual information listed below, we do not believe that a current user would be able to access actual DNA results, victim information, or information about potential defendants.

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